Saturday 25 January 2020

Diego blow

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

IRELAND'S opening night at the new Lansdowne Road lost some of its prestige last night after opponents Argentina sacked Diego Maradona.

The charismatic manager was on course to retain his post despite an inauspicious exit from the World Cup at the hands of Germany, but had vowed to walk away unless his entire back-room staff also kept their jobs.

However, last night the Argentina FA revealed that they will not be renewing his contract, ending his erratic 21-month stint in charge.

The AFA had offered him a four-year contract to continue through to the 2014 World Cup, but Maradona said he would only stay if his entire staff remained - and that proved to be a demand too far for the association.

In the short term, the likely knock-on effect is that youth supremo Sergio Batista will take control as interim manager and will select the squad for the trip to Dublin.

It's unclear what quality of panel will be available in the fallout from the managerial change, although the FAI have always been confident that the marquee players, such as Lionel Messi, will be present for the encounter.

Indeed, Maradona's reign had been notable for a slightly reckless selection policy.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, who had been looking forward to crossing paths with Maradona, released his 28-man selection for the August 11 clash yesterday.

The major surprise was the omission of Wigan teenager James McCarthy, who appears to have paid the penalty for missing out on May's training camp and friendlies with Paraguay and Algeria.

Derby's Paul Green and Birmingham's Keith Fahey get another chance to impress after doing well in that fortnight, with Manchester City's left-full Greg Cunningham also in line for another cap.

His club colleague Shay Given is included, allaying fears that his shoulder problem could make him a doubt for the beginning of the Euro 2012 qualifiers in September.

Irish Independent

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