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Trap stuck in own world


Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Giovanni Trapattoni during squad training. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Giovanni Trapattoni during squad training. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE


Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

IT was like pulling a particularly misshapen molar from Giovanni Trapattoni's jaw. Praise for Wes Hoolahan is hard work for the Ireland manager.

Hoolahan is fifth in Trapattoni's midfield pecking order behind Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, James McCarthy, Paul Green – and if Darron Gibson was among us, he'd be sixth.

If any one of the above were available to partner Whelan, Hoolahan would not be playing against the Faroe Islands at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

That's the reality and anyone who talks of an evolution and Ireland moving on is living in a fairytale.

Trapattoni was asked to explain what it is that makes Hoolahan such a clever player, to say a few words about the positive aspects of his talent. Almost instantly, the fog rolled in.

So much so that the questioner, after waiting politely for about five minutes of blather, had to ask the question again; at which point the sentences dried up quickly. "Fantastic final pass" was about the best of it and certainly no analysis of Hoolahan's pivotal presence against Georgia.

Trapattoni reiterated his contention that, after Euro 2012, he wanted to try something new and as a result, Hoolahan's age was an obstacle.

The suggestion that the generational shift he wanted to develop didn't have any room for Hoolahan when the World Cup qualifying began is just nonsense.

There should always be room for a good player but Trapattoni has shown time and time again over the last five years that he is more than willing to dump talent when it suits him, sometimes on a whim.

The primacy of his system, his belief that Ireland should not play with the ball for any longer than strictly necessary, and his own stubborn nature are the key drivers of this philosophy.

There is a debate at the moment about Trapattoni's relevance in terms of the progress seen on the pitch since his neck was on the line eight months ago in the Faroe Islands.

Some have suggested that he deserves credit because he has made the changes everyone had been asking for and the evidence of that is the fact that Hoolahan plays against the Nordic men at Lansdowne Road tonight.

James McCarthy, suspended for this one, is a now a fixture in the team, Séamus Coleman firmly installed as first choice right-full and Marc Wilson on the other side.

Shane Long, also suspended, and Hoolahan complete the picture and Trapattoni's critics have been disarmed. Not at all. In fact the opposite. Those who pushed for the five mentioned above to play (which was just about everyone) knew instinctively that Ireland would be a better team with them on the field. Trapattoni clearly didn't believe this until he had no choice.

If Keith Andrews had been fit for the last nine months, he would have started every game. There is no doubt about that and McCarthy and Hoolahan would still have their noses pressed up against the window.

If Richard Dunne had been fit for the last nine months, John O'Shea would have been selected at right-full and Coleman would still be kicking his heels.

The story continues with James McClean, the man who created two goals against Georgia, has a point to prove and is left on the bench so that Trapattoni can stick as many strikers on the pitch as possible.

His explanation for Simon Cox's inclusion was long-winded and confusing but to cut through all the waffle, 'McClean won't score a goal so I'm picking Cox'.



But will Cox create a goal? Jon Walters, picked to support Robbie Keane up front, will do just that and clearly enjoys playing with Ireland's record goal-scorer.

It's a renewal of the little man/big man relationship Keane enjoyed with Teddy Sheringham, Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino over the years and it is hard to escape the thought that McClean would better designed to supply the partnership than Cox.

Hoolahan, however, is the man who will make the biggest difference of all. He showed he has the legs to chase and tackle when he has to against Georgia, almost certainly the aspect of his game which convinced Trapattoni that he is trustworthy for a competitive outing.

But he also showed how to make a pass that will produce a goal and an awareness of those around him which should be too much for the Faroes.

If events had run differently in the days after Torshavn and the FAI had the money to pay him off, Trapattoni would have been gone and this game would be about building a new team for the next European Championship with a new manager at the wheel and optimism in the air.

The players on the pitch are engineering change but the manager is still stuck in his ways and Robbie Keane's words yesterday underlined that fact. "He hasn't changed since day one. Since I've been in the squad, I haven't seen any change."

Ireland (v Faroe Islands): David Forde; Séamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Sean St Ledger, Marc Wilson; Simon Cox, Glenn Whelan, Wes Hoolahan, Aiden McGeady; Robbie Keane (captain), Jon Walters.

Prediction: Ireland 3 Faroe Islands 0