Kevin cut up by Pole axe

Central defensive issues forced Trap's hand

Paul Hyland

IT seems foolish and inappropriate to throw around words like trauma and tragic to describe Kevin Foley's truly awful exclusion from the Ireland squad after an extraordinary and painful day for many people in Emilia Romano.

An earthquake took lives and left families devastated among the rubble and to use such words in such circumstances, as we often do to explain the day-to-day lives of our top sportsmen and women, would be wrong.

But after talking with Foley in the Mixed Zone after Ireland's kickabout with Tuscan locals in Pistoia, to describe his state of mind in anything other than the strongest terms would also be inaccurate.

Foley was raw with emotion and very, very confused by a 24-hour spell which saw optimism about his injury problems turn to dust following a one to one chat with Giovanni Trapattoni.

He was close to tears and angry. Clearly furious with Trapattoni's decision, he reached into his mind for a word to punish his international manager and he picked a serious one. Betrayal.

He chose carefully and said it twice, a rush of blood which was perhaps unwise given the fact that Trapattoni still has unresolved injury doubts.

But he spoke from the heart and there was nothing wrong with that. At 28, he must believe that his only chance of ever making the cut for a big tournament has gone.

Trapattoni wanted him to stay, to take some time to digest the news that Foley's good friend Paul McShane was in the final 23 but he flew home to his family today, unwilling to hang around.

Trapattoni also showed some emotion when he spoke about the decision he made, and while it would be churlish to suggest that this was feigned in any way, he is a consummate performer in almost every football situation and a tear or two didn't dilute the ruthless choice he made.

To say the least, it is a confusing decision. Foley was given squad number 13 while McShane was put on standby and up until a few days ago, the only question was about fitness.

He played for 45 minutes in what was a comprehensive 5-0 victory over a Tuscan XI, put together to raise funds in memory of the late Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini.

Foley was fit, there was no question about that and even suggested that he could have trained properly for two days before the Bosnia game but was rested by Trapattoni.

His logic was simple. If he had been able to play against Bosnia, he would have had a chance to cement his place in the squad and McShane might not have played as full a part in the game as he did.

Last night, McShane was once again centrally involved, starting at right-full and then moving into the centre alongside Sean St Ledger, a clear indication of Trapattoni's thinking. McShane can cover two defensive positions while Foley was seen as a full-back first and midfielder second.

Because there is still a doubt over John O'Shea and indeed Darren O'Dea, Trapattoni obviously felt that he needed to beef up his options for the two central defensive slots.

From Trapattoni's point of view, that made the decision easier and he would no doubt argue that circumstances betrayed Foley and not the manager.


Presumably, Trapattoni will make allowances for Foley's fraught state of mind, but if he does lose another defender between now and the team's arrival in Poland, it will take some major diplomacy to bring Foley back.

Foley bit back a comment about whether he would ever play at international level again, but it seemed as if he was about to write his own retirement note until he thought better of it. McShane did his best to restrain himself despite his good fortune. He goes back a long way with Foley and he meant it when he said he felt no buzz of adrenaline when Trapattoni gave him the news.

To be fair to McShane, he made a significant impact in the last two games and looks remarkably fit for a man who hasn't played a huge amount of football in recent months.

And Trapattoni has always liked him, championing a player who has often been unfairly caricatured as a wildly unpredictable liability, a man prone to spectacular blunders.

Certainly, he has made mistakes and is so committed to his work that his tackles sometimes come with a health warning.

But he cannot be faulted for heart and courage and that's the kind quality Trapattoni mainlines on. That's why he's on his way to Poland and Foley is devastated.