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Trap fights to bitter end

MOVE along quietly folks. Nothing to see here. Like any good traffic cop, Giovanni Trapattoni did his very best to push everyone away from the crash scene but the rubber-neckers were out in force and wanted to see blood.

Sitting in the conference room in FAI HQ in Abbotstown, the source of bitingly nasty leaks about his future just a few short weeks ago, Trapattoni tried to pretend that nothing much happened in the Faroe Islands.

Pragmatism almost always gets in the way of the truth in football and Trapattoni has seen and done all of this before in a dozen different ways but generally with the same result. The show goes on.

He accepts that there was a heave against him but holds no grudge and will do what he has done for 30 years and more and get on with the job.

Given the utter lack of respect shown to him by at least one high-placed FAI source, Trapattoni's loyalty to his employers is both remarkable and understandable.

But after days of crass and ham-fisted behind-the-scenes manoeuvring a few weeks ago, following the humiliation dished out by Joachim Löw and his team and what turned out to be a pretty pathetic effort to unseat him, Trapattoni's position has been undermined to a ridiculous degree.

He tried hard to push through the fog of doubt created by those now-infamous leaks but even the tone of the questions posed at this squad announcement was different. People wanted answers but as ever, he chose not to oblige.

He also managed to trip himself up. After telling us that there was no damage done to his relationship with the FAI by recent events and that his employers had never meddled with his work, he indicated that the new rules imposed on him during his meeting with John Delaney in the same building two weeks ago were, in fact, suggestions and not interference.

When pressed, he explained that it was his duty to go to games in England. Presumably, it was his duty to go to games in England before Delaney issued new 'suggestions' and if that is the case, he wasn't doing his job properly.

All the problems associated with the four years he has been among us have not gone away and as if to prove the point, Trapattoni found a way to make Shane Long into a headline again. And not a good one.

Long, it would appear, has a hamstring injury complicated by another knock behind his knee but such mere trifles have never stopped Trapattoni naming injured players in his squad before.

In fact, he named Richard Dunne for the Germany/Faroe Islands double header when his best defender was all but lying on an operating table with a surgeon's scalpel poised.

Many players, including Long himself, have been selected in squads over the last four years when everyone apart from Trapattoni seemed to know that they could and would not be fit.

But not this time. It is no coincidence that Long looked like a player at the end of his tether when he was given 10 minutes to run around in Torshavn and this after a very public disagreement with Trapattoni in Belgrade, again over fitness issue.

The biggest problem with Trapattoni now is inconsistency. He has said so many different things about his players, both individually and collectively, that it is impossible to follow his logic any more.

For every question he answers, a flock of follow-up queries pop up like meercats but you know there's no point in even asking.

Wes Hoolahan is the perfect example. After four years waiting for a call, the Norwich playmaker has finally been picked and it looks like Trapattoni is ready to try him alongside James McCarthy.

But this option has been available to him for the last two or three years and could have been tried in any of the myriad of friendly games Ireland has played since Trapattoni took over.

It is impossible to avoid the feeling that Hoolahan's selection is nothing more than an attempt to paper over the cracks caused by the fact that Trapattoni has not been doing his job properly; just some window dressing to appease the masses.

There was also talk yesterday of a return to the squad for Darron Gibson who has apparently spoken to Trapattoni and confirmed that he is ready to play for Ireland again.

But is he really? Trapattoni claims he had words with the Derryman but he has said the same before about several players during moments of controversy and subsequent events proved that communication was conducted via texts -- if it all.

All of this has been absorbed into the miasma of misinformation, misunderstanding and avoidance which swirls around Trapattoni's head. Trapattoni claims that his authority has not been undermined and that he knows this because he looked into his players' eyes in Torshavn and found trust. Maybe they were wearing contact lenses.

He believes that the performance we saw against the Faroe's was a vote of confidence from his players.

But maybe the players were playing for themselves and their country and not Trapattoni.

Either way, he's still Ireland's senior international manager and whether he has been undermined or not, he will carry on to the bitter end.

And it will be bitter.


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