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Time on Trap's side for Euros

HE'S pale as a ghost but hungry for work.

Much to-ing and fro-ing between places like Croagh Patrick and a variety of weather-challenged Irish beauty spots has left our favourite Italian pasty-faced and shivering but he's still good to go.

He can't wait to get to Montecatini where the sun shines all the time and a glowing tan is genetic, but he has a week to kill in Malahide where the conditions yesterday were positively wintry.

No matter what the season, Trap is not a man to bring weather with him. He always seems to come among us when large hailstones are bouncing off beach umbrellas or monsoons sweep in from the west. In fact, anyone waiting for the summer to start should time their run for Sunday week when he boards a plane for Bologna.

Given the dank, drizzly conditions, it was hard to muster enthusiasm for the first posse of players to arrive but Trapattoni has desperately important business to transact with lads like Keith Fahey and Kevin Foley, who are both dealing with groin injuries and are by no means certain to travel.

Trapattoni claims they are and that another 10 days will make all the difference for both players, but he also reminded us that he can make changes to his list if he needs to before the UEFA deadline at the end of the month.

So, as opening days go, Ireland's first official day of preparation for Euro 2012 was underwhelming, and after Trapattoni watched his advance guard take a few desultory whacks at a football before returning to their hotel, he began what will be a relentless series of media appearances with his customary gusto and good humour.

The first men in for Trap's camp were Sean St Ledger, Kevin Foley, Keith Fahey, James McClean, Kieren Westwood, Simon Cox, Stephen Hunt, Darron Gibson, David Forde and Darron O'Dea -- and half of them have something to prove.

Foley and Fahey did some very light work apart from the group while the rest had what can best be described as a kickabout.


But these days are important for someone like Stephen Hunt who would rather forget the 2011/12 season and move on with his life.

Injury restricted his participation in the Premier League season and he, more than most, will be anxious to show Trapattoni his best before the bulk of the squad arrive and turn the coach's head.

With such a settled side, it may seem like an almost pointless endeavour to try to shift Trapattoni out of the rhythm he has been in since he took this job. His team hasn't changed at all and the only thing that's up for grabs is a cameo here and there from the bench.

But Trap has occasionally displayed the capacity to make snap decisions based on a hunch, something both Keith Andrews and Stephen Ward, and, most recently, James McClean, have cause to be thankful for. McClean stands to benefit the most from the next three days when he has Trap to himself. The way the manager was talking yesterday, he will receive an intensive grounding in Ireland's "schema" until, if he's a quick learner, he can do it in his sleep.

Others like Fahey and Foley have a simple job ahead of them. Scans have revealed low-level problems with groin injuries and Trapattoni's medical team have told him that there is nothing to worry about.

Likewise John O'Shea, who was certainly not Trapattoni's model squad member last weekend when he lined out for Sunderland despite an ankle knock sustained in training last week.

The gist of what Trap had to say was that O'Shea took a silly and monumental risk to play against Manchester United in the final game of the season when he could have had a quiet word with Martin O'Neill.

However, O'Shea is the type of player who would not want to be seen to duck out of what was, for him personally, a very difficult assignment against Manchester United.

That he has come through the experience without any major damage is fortunate and like Fahey and Foley, Trapattoni is not worried about any medium-term problems, although he is sure to have a quiet word with O'Shea when he sees him.

So far, Darron Gibson has exhibited no signs of any injury issue but there remains a doubt. Trapattoni confirmed a week ago that the Everton midfielder was managing some kind of problem and he too must prove his fitness in the next 10 days.

All in all then, an ultra-low key start to the Euro 2012 build-up and the suspicion is that Trapattoni will do his most important work in the team hotel over the coming days when he tries to get inside McClean's head.

By Monday it will be all hands to the pump and time for everyone to knuckle down. With a bit of luck, the sun might even come out.