End of the line for Brady
The decision of Liam Brady to sever his ties with an Ireland team eyeing up a more than favourable chance of qualifying for the 2012 European Championships may have been subtly signposted but it has still registered like a bolt from the blue.
Brady is believed to have been both assured of his Irish future by those within the Irish management and the FAI but, more pointedly, seemingly allowed a further dispensation from his club manager, Arsene Wenger, to maintain his dual mandate.
Quite what exactly has happened in the intervening months since the FAI and manager Giovanni Trapattoni first hinted that they most assuredly wished Brady's continued involvement, remains unclear. Either Brady feels that his role within the FAI's management team compromised his role within Arsenal's perennially struggling youth development sector, or the opposite, that his concerns over his day job deflected from his international sinecure.
Whatever, his sudden departure, leaked embarrassingly prematurely -- the news was contained within the parameters of a Sunday newspaper briefing -- will, on the face of things at least, be seen as a blow to the Irish cause before a ball has been kicked in anger.
The puzzling aspect of the breaking story is that Brady seems to have been assured of his future at Arsenal -- some industry reports suggesting he had been retained on an improved four-year deal with the club with which he first blazed a trail in the late 1970s.
This would have allowed him the security to continue his role with the Irish team, especially as Wenger had all but alleviated any concerns the Dubliner may have felt with the dual mandate.
And yet, as one grasps beyond the suddenness of the announcement, there is a thread of logic running through the announcement. Brady clearly feels that his initial task of acting as Trapattoni's consigliere in all murky matters FAI has run its natural course.
The initial gamble of opting for a lavishly expensive Italian management team, leavened by Brady's obvious Irish credentials, have been utterly franked by Ireland's wholly successful World Cup qualifying bid.
Marco Tardelli will now assume one of the main tasks assigned to Brady, that of liaising with English clubs and; given the assistant's omnipotence in English grounds; that assimilation should be a formality.
Brady's departure also serves as a signal that Trapattoni has been utterly emboldened by his initially relative success in the role and, armed with an extended contract and the persistent knowledge that covetous suitors lie behind every corner, he has been able to assert himself in dealings with his grateful Abbottstown paymasters.
Close watchers of the international set-up would often harshly argue that Brady's role, certainly in the initial throes of Trapattoni's management, constituted little more than that of a glorified translator.
Certainly, Trapattoni, who has repeatedly asserted his supreme tactical control, would rarely deign to those beneath him on matters pertaining to integral tactics.
From a personnel point of view, there's little to suggest a row in the camp but it would be difficult to conceive of a collective wake being organised by the Irish playing staff on receipt of this news. Certainly Andy Reid, in whose prolonged exile from the squad Brady allegedly played a leading role, there may have been a sigh of relief.
And do not be surprised if the enduring epic of Stephen Ireland's future participation in an Ireland squad, at one stage so memorably and cuttingly dismissed by Brady in a characteristic fit of pique, does not return to the agenda before the start of the next qualifying campaign, particularly if the controversial Cobh man remains dispensable to new Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini.
Brady will bid farewell to official duties in next month's Brazil friendly -- ironically at the home of his full-time employment -- and several voices within football last night suggested that it would be intolerable were he to return to RTE studios as an analyst of his former charges.
The FAI would have been correct to assert as much.
The FAI were forced to issue a hurried statement last night. "The Football Association of Ireland today (Saturday, February 13) confirmed that Liam Brady will finish his role as assistant manager with the senior international team when his contract expires in April this year.
"Liam started working with the FAI in March 2008 as part of the new senior management team alongside Marco Tardelli and Giovanni Trapattoni and played a significant role in developing the current senior Irish squad during the World Cup qualification campaign."
The statement then quoted Brady.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed working as assistant manager for my country over the past two years and I thank Giovanni, Marco, Alan, Fausto, the backroom team, the players and the fans for their tremendous support during that time.
"As a former Irish captain it was a real pleasure to be part of growing and developing the new generation of Irish players who performed so well over the last campaign.
"The decision to end my involvement with Ireland has been taken in light of my continued work as Director of Youth Development at Arsenal.
"The Ireland role required me to be away a lot of time and although Arsenal made it clear they would have been quite happy for me to continue, I have decided it is not right in the circumstances to remain in position after I complete my contract this April.
"I thank the FAI and everyone involved in the Irish set-up. It has been a great personal experience for me and I wish Giovanni, Marco and all the players all the very best for the coming campaign."
Commenting on the news, Trapattoni said: "Liam has been a great asset to the Ireland management team and we will all be sorry to see him go after his last match with us against Brazil in the Emirates Stadium. He has done a great job here and I know all of the players join me in wishing him every continued success at Arsenal."
Chief executive of the FAI John Delaney said: "Liam is a legend of Irish football and a gentleman to work with. He has impressed everyone here at the association with his dedication and commitment.
"His lifetime of experience at the highest levels in the game, in Italy, England and Ireland brought a necessary dynamic to the original building."
That there is little urgency to replace him demonstrates vividly that he was not irreplaceable, merely a convenient method, if at times unsubtle, of bedding in a new management team. Irish football is always the poorer for the loss of someone of Liam Brady's calibre.
But only if Irish football had retained him in a capacity to demonstrate his singular strengths in an unfettered manner.
That day may still come.