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Points provide redemption

THE beat goes on. Giovanni Trapattoni waves his baton and the players move in concert, now responding to his message without a second's thought.

Some of us quibble about the show and the fact that Trapattoni appears intent on pushing every bit of creative talent in the country to the margins and beyond.

But two games, six points and top spot in Euro 2012 Qualifying Group B cannot be a bad thing.

Andorra are a much poorer team than Armenia, perhaps better organised and not inclined towards a cavalry charge, but much less talented.

Ireland made them look much better than they were in the Aviva and offered up one of those rare events in the life of an Andorran football fan -- a cracker of a goal.

Trapattoni wasn't minded to blame anyone for the concession of such a soft goal. Christian Martinez could stand in the same spot for a couple of years and never hit the ball so sweetly.

Perhaps Shay Given might have done better if he wasn't enduring purgatory at Eastlands but Trapattoni was happy to put the goal down to a bolt from the blue rather than a defensive miscue.

He knows that Ireland didn't play well in Yerevan or in this one but he also knows that with a fairer wind, Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle could have scored a lot more than the brace they shared in the two games.

Most important of all, Trapattoni is clearly more than happy with the purchase his relentless concentration on detail has found within the Irish squad and that was never more evident than in the last seven days.

There is a clean focus on work when the squad trains and very little else on the menu when they gather in Dublin. Apparently, requests for a pass to take in the All-Ireland hurling final fell on deaf ears.

Trapattoni makes extensive use of video analysis and unlike the days when Brian Kerr was greeted with yawns and resistance when he tried to do the same, the players appear to be responding well.

Aiden McGeady was highlighted as one who looked, listened and followed the Trapattoni code in the run-up to and including the 90 minutes against Andorra.

"We showed him many DVDs and told him he could do more and he did. He was one of the best and I am very pleased that he understands what I am saying," said Trapattoni, a sentiment which could be applied to all of his players.

Even Darron Gibson. The Derryman will be frustrated and annoyed that he played a peripheral role in the opening two qualifiers, particularly given the nature of the opposition.

He will be even more disturbed when he realises that he was given inaccurate information suggesting that Trapattoni wanted him to leave Manchester United to find regular football and responded in public with, shall we say, incredulity.


He would have had a point if Trapattoni ever suggested that he should leave Old Trafford but he didn't. What he did say was that Gibson would benefit from more football and that's a no-brainer.

The fact that Gibson eventually got a chance to throw a few shapes against Andorra showed that there is no issue between player and manager.

He will learn a great deal from Trapattoni if he is minded to listen but he will have to bite his tongue and quietly adjust his game if he is to make any real impact on this Irish team.

This is, of course, another example the culture clash between Trapattoni's no frills functional football and Irish players with a different view of the game and the way it should be played.

To date, Trapattoni's primacy has been absolute and will remain so where it counts. He will pick the team he wants to do the job he sets out and deviation from the message is not tolerated.

It's a policy which has consequences. Gibson must understand why he is second pick behind Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews but he can't be happy to give way to a Championship midfielder.

Paul Green did nothing against either Armenia or Andorra to suggest he is anything other than a workhorse and if Gibson makes the breakthrough predicted by Alex Ferguson at club level, he will view international fixtures with an ever more dyspeptic eye. Thoroughbreds are notoriously skittish.

There is also the issue of James McCarthy and the fact that his great potential is currently being refined in an under-21 environment.

Does Trapattoni prefer to see him there because he's still too young to be exposed to the full glare of senior international football?

Or would his presence in the elite squad simply raise more pesky questions about the system he favours and the impact it has on creativity?

Mind you, if there was any faint stirrings of concern that McCarthy's mind might begin to lean back towards Scotland because he isn't making the senior squad, events in Hampden Park last night killed them stone dead.

A 97-minute winner to steal a 2-1 win at home against Liechtenstein is not the kind of result the SFA can dangle in front of dual nationals like McCarthy or indeed, any others that might be in the pipeline.

Trapattoni can offer results and certainty. Gibson made a difference when he came on and cut through a mob of blue shirts on several occasions with nicely incisive passes. It was hard not to believe that he would have had a much greater impact than Green if he had been on from the start.


At the very least, the crowd would have been entertained a bit more than they were. Apart from Kevin Kilbane's joyous celebration of a rare goal, Doyle's magnificent spot and strike and Keane's deft flick for the third goal, it was dour enough stuff.

McGeady was tricky and quick; more than a handful for the Andorran defence and seems to be responding to Trapattoni's prompting about the defensive side of his game.

He was tireless and gave Kilbane a great deal more protection than he got in Yerevan. He also threw in a couple of trademark diagonal runs across the face of the box and a couple of decent shots.

Sure, McGeady disappeared down blind alleys and tried to waltz through a wall of implacable Andorrans once too often but sometimes, he was like a fox among chickens. He's a confidence player and he will have gained a great deal from his involvement in both games.

As a creative outlet, he's as good as we have and if Trapattoni manages to give McGeady the mental control he needs to make his twinkling toes dance the right steps, he will be hard to shift from the left flank -- even when Damien Duff and Stephen Hunt return.

Trapattoni has good reason to be satisfied with his work. Time and time again over the last four weeks he has underlined his belief that he now has a squad of players on message and doing things his way.

From the starting position he had back in 2008, that's a great achievement but of more practical use is the six points he now has in his wallet.

The result in Moscow helps him too, and makes Ireland's first victory over a higher seed since Holland in 2001 a distinct possibility in the Aviva next month when every seat should filled for the visit of Russia.

There was plenty of green seats visible in the new stadium again last night and nobody in Abbotstown needs to be told the significance of that little detail, as Trap might put it.

Trapattoni and his players will need to see the Aviva hopping when Russia walk onto the pitch and it's unthinkable that there might be empty seats for such a big occasion. Fingers crossed. Maybe that should be written into the FAI's business plan.


Given 6; O'Shea 7, Dunne 7, St Ledger 6, Kilbane 7; Lawrence 6, Whelan 6, Green 6, McGeady 7; Keane 7, Doyle 9.