Trap unfazed by injuries

Italian spins a confident line as Irish pray knocks not serious

Paul Hyland

IT'S not often Giovanni Trapattoni gets flustered about anything, but right now, he does seem more than a touch discombobulated by Shay Given's knee and John O'Shea's ankle.

Add in Richard Dunne, Jon Walters, Robbie Keane, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey and Kevin Foley who are all nursing knocks, and that's a third of Trapattoni's first-choice squad under medical supervision of one sort or another out in Portmarnock.

It's not a crisis - yet. There's still a lot of miles to travel before we wind up in Poland and ready to do it all for real but it is more than a bit unsettling.

These are not easy days for Trapattoni despite the artfully constructed sense of well being emanating from his players in the sunshine by the sea, but if there is a major injury concern among those named, he's doing his very best to hide it.


So, instead of a detailed injury report, Trap gives us a tall tale about an ongoing discussion between himself and senior men about whether they should play against Bosnia or not.

Apparently, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane, Given and O'Shea all want to be involved and could, at a push, take the field and Trapattoni is finding it hard to stop them.

Right. We believe that one. If there is a debate, there shouldn't be and it is more likely that ticket sales for Lansdowne Road are at the root of Trap's unwillingness to sit his senior men down and tell them to put their feet up and relax until they are really needed.

Bums on seats is the order of the day and while that imperative remains, Trapattoni must fall into line and at least pay lip service to the notion that all his big names will be on show.

But with O'Shea and Given, it's a bit different. For a start, Trapattoni has admitted that if the Donegalman does start against Bosnia, he won't be able to kick the ball out because of his knee injury.

It would be crazy for Given to play in those circumstances and while the man's commitment to the shirt is such that he wants to play in every game possible, this is one where discretion should win out.


O'Shea is also causing Trapattoni significant worry.

Maybe even more than Given and that means a day off for the Sunderland man on Saturday.

There is some confusion over the exact nature of O'Shea's problem which began as a recurrence of a calf strain when it was first reported but seems to have morphed into an ankle injury somewhere along the way.

Since the calf and the ankle are not a hundred miles apart, it is reasonable to assume that his difficulty lies somewhere in between.

That would be his Achilles and that would not be good at all.

Only time will tell whether these injuries will improve and whether Trapattoni will have to dig into his reserve list before the end of the month.

But, for now, it's all sweetness and light. The players are in great form and all singing a confident song.

Naturally enough, nobody wants to tell Trapattoni that they are not available for the Bosnia game, but he has seen all the dodges over the years and should know by now when a player is spinning a yarn.

Before every major tournament, we live off such small tremors and, given the alternative 10 years ago, that's not such a bad thing.

Almost 10 years ago to the hour, Mick McCarthy waved a copy of the Irish Times in Roy Keane's direction and said: "What's this about?"

It was a loaded question which triggered a reaction which has held the nation in thrall ever since.

For those who were there, it signalled the beginning of a surreal seven days and permanent sleep deprivation.

This time, however, there has been a very obvious effort by everyone in the FAI who have hands-on work to do with the squad to make sure everything proceeds without any scares.

Certainly, there is no sign of austerity in the resources allocated to squad operations and, as an example of that, the Gannon Park training surface is like a billiard table.


Media matters are humming along nicely and players are far more co-operative than McCarthy's group in the North Pacific.

In fact, but for a brief burst of life when Keane gave his annual address to the nation a few weeks back, events from 10 years ago have only been mentioned by media outlets looking for space to fill before the main item on the menu.

So there's good reason to be thankful that Trapattoni has everything under control and has three weeks to programme his players with all they will need to take on Croatia, Spain and Italy.

If the worst he has to deal with is a medical roll call of minor knocks and bruises every day, Trapattoni will be a happy man.