AT a time of endings and great events in football, Giovanni Trapattoni must feel his age right now. Alex Ferguson is a younger man, yet even he has had enough.
Trapattoni is just a bystander now in the world game, marking time as Ireland boss until the tide of qualification finally goes out and leaves him stranded.
He throws out his best lines, still but they barely raise a smile now. Napoli? Just journalists with a fervid imagination. Unfortunately, he is still "100% committed to Ireland".
Ferguson's remarkable leaving day at Old Trafford ended with a grand filleting of Wayne Rooney and Trapattoni must have looked on in admiration.
In professional football, grudges are polished and sharpened over years until the moment is right to sink the knife in up to the handle.
Ferguson did it with a nonchalant flourish and in a way which left Rooney exposed as the villain, a device Trapattoni has used on more than one occasion to deliver a message to a player he no longer has any use for, but with nowhere near as much class.
When Trapattoni has a gripe with a player, it emerges in a bluster of languages and images, causing confusion even when there is a valid point to be made.
Ferguson did his work in three or four throwaway sentences, words which took the media by surprise. After 27 years on a war footing with the great man, here he was delivering a massive story on live television to waiting hacks.
This is the man who barred journalists from his presence for writing true stories and his delivery was masterclass for Ireland's manager to study.
The news Trapattoni had to deliver yesterday was meaty enough. He is now leaning towards a five-man midfield and a role for Wes Hoolahan in the rest of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Apart from Kevin Doyle's absence and Richard Dunne's ongoing injury woe, this was the only substance in a press conference held in the Civic Officies in Carrick-on-Shannon as part of their 400-year celebrations.
It is always amusing to watch dignitaries and innocent bystanders while they experience the full three dimensional reality of Trapattoni in full flight and he didn't let them down.
His opening message was about Ferguson, but difficult to decipher and once he got into the detail of his squad for Ireland's busy summer programme, heads began to turn and ask in stage whispers: "What did he say?"
Steve Staunton provided the best answer to that many moons ago: "I haven't a Scooby Doo."
What is clear is that Doyle and Ciaran Clark are both scheduled for surgery and will not be available. Dunne is still fighting for his career and according to Trapattoni, is not fit enough to join the squad. It also seems that Trapattoni believes that Anthony Pilkington will make it possible for him to use a five-man midfield in the future with Hoolahan (below) playing just behind Shane Long and presumably, in front of James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan, while McGeady raids down the right.
The only problem with that is that Pilkington has fluid on the knee and might only be available for the England game because of his impending nuptials which take place shortly after the big day in Wembley.
Trapattoni will try to use the friendlies against England and Georgia to test his new formation, although history and cynicism would suggest that nothing much will change – at Wembley at least.
In fact, all Trapattoni did was to dangle the possibility of change in front of our noses as he has done many times before.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, he reverts to type and the ball lifts toward the heavens.
Time will tell. Trapattoni gives every indication that he is hungry to build a new team with Ireland's crop of talented young players.
But it is difficult to take that seriously given an endless parade of trouble between manager and key young men like James McCarthy, James McClean, Marc Wilson and several others. We're all just marking time now until his next dropped point.
Once that happens, qualification is over and he'll be gone.