Sunday 18 March 2018

Daniel McDonnell: A simple call to loyal Ireland servant would still be appreciated

It reads like the kind of challenge that no man would take on. Falling out with Kevin Doyle, Stephen Kelly and Kevin Foley? Impossible, surely. That Giovanni Trapattoni has forced three low maintenance, mild mannered, genuinely solid characters to break from the habit of a lifetime and criticise a manager in public says a lot about how a rump of Irish players feel about his way of doing business.

Considering the importance and possible implications of tomorrow's game in Sweden, you can understand to some degree why the management team don't want to be distracted with press queries about a player outside their 23-man panel.

But Doyle wanted to make a point yesterday by releasing a statement through Wolves expressing his dissatisfaction about the manner in which his unbroken run from the Ireland squad was ended.

After seven years of service, he deserved more than a text as an explanation, especially when his last contribution to an Irish competitive game was the late cameo in Kazakhstan that effectively saved Trapattoni his job.

Doyle is a reasonable character and while he is unlikely to have agreed with his exclusion from a squad that includes inferior strikers, a conversation would at least have helped to provide understanding, particularly when it was inevitable that the 74-year-old would then speak at length about his reasons through the media. Kevin Kilbane was treated the same way, cast aside with a terse text message when he was no longer deemed useful.

It was incredibly poor form for a loyal servant. Irking Doyle is totally unnecessary considering it's entirely likely he will be needed again soon – possibly even by Tuesday if a forward option picks up an injury in Stockholm tomorrow night.

Communication issues with players remain a recurring theme of this regime. Sean St Ledger made the case for the defence earlier this week, pointing out that Trapattoni had been in constant contact throughout his injury lay-off, sending texts enquiring about his well-being. The Irish boss stresses that he is always in contact with his men in those situations.

There is a crucial distinction, however, if a slightly unfortunate foray into agony aunt territory can be excused. Texting a partner to ask them if they have shaken off a minor illness is generally deemed acceptable behaviour. Dumping someone by SMS is not.

It may seem ridiculous to even use romance as an analogy for anything in football these days, but Trapattoni often veers that way when he speaks of the heart of this Irish team, a bond and spirit which he believes can overcome other deficiencies.

That idealistic vision contrasts dramatically with the fairly insensitive way in which genuinely likeable members of the group have been treated at a time when an arm around the shoulder is necessary. The vibe from Wolves is that a simple phone call to Doyle would still be appreciated. Surely, it's not too much to ask.

Irish Independent

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