Saturday 24 February 2018

Fab Four to take stock before any decisions on future

Ireland's Glenn Whelan (R) and John O'Shea watch as their team mate Richard Dunne (L) fights for the ball with Italy's Antonio Di Natale during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match at the City stadium in Poznan.
Ireland's Glenn Whelan (R) and John O'Shea watch as their team mate Richard Dunne (L) fights for the ball with Italy's Antonio Di Natale during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match at the City stadium in Poznan.
David Kelly

David Kelly

A summary and brutal ending to Ireland's participation in Euro 2012.

And, for Ireland's remaining members of the World Cup golden generation from a decade ago, perhaps the final curtain on a quartet of international careers.

And as much as they express their fear to engage with him in terms of style and tactics, the meeting of minds between Ireland's leading players and their manager are now crucial.

"I don't know," says Richard Dunne, close to tears after a performance whose immense resolve almost reflected a feeling that he believes it may be pointless to carry on.

Especially if this is the end result. Nobody knows anything anymore.

"I don't know what effect retirements might have. What difference can we make now?

"Because we've come and we're not good enough. So it might be time if people want to retire to let young players come through, or if people want to have one more bash at it ... I don't know. Everyone has to make their own individual decision.

"I'll have a chat with the manager and see what his plans are, whether there are other players coming through and stuff like that. In two years' time, I mightn't be ready anyway so we'll see now what happens."

Robbie Keane positively bristled at the suggestion last weekend; last night, he was less violent in opposition.

The senior players may be reluctant to confirm their retirements at this rawest of moments; neither are they overcome with a raging desire to continue in the aftermath of such crushing disappointment.

"It's not really the right time to be even talking about it," says Keane, who scoffs -- "No chance!" -- at the prospect of Trapattoni flying the coop.

"The whole squad is coming off a tournament in which we're all disappointed. So it's not the right time to be talking about that.

"It's not about making my mind up. I'm not saying anything ... I'm just carrying on ... who knows? I'm not even thinking about it."

Disconsolate Damien Duff, earning his 100th cap, will cherish his captain's armband but not the memory of this defeat, particularly if it marks the end of his career.

"Ah listen, I said before, I'd play until I was 100 with Ireland if they'd have me but sometimes it doesn't work like that," he demurs gracefully, albeit also clearly upset. "So I said we'll see, it's more important to talk about the team and how we've done over the past month. Obviously it's disappointing, we weren't good enough.

"I don't know if I'll play on, we'll see about that. I'll obviously speak to the manager and all. I'm not getting any younger. I don't think it's the right time to make any announcements. We should pick the bones out of the tournament and how we done. It's more important.

"I know what I'm going to do. I don't think it's fair to say it now. I think this is the time to evaluate how the team has done over the past three or four weeks."

Asked about his colleagues, Duff pinpoints the degree of difficulty Ireland will have should such a significant swathe of authoritative experience be removed with one feel swoop.

"On the one hand people might say it's nice to freshen up a team with youth and what have you, but at the same time it's nice to have experience in the squad," he explains. "So yeah, if a few of the lads went, I think it would leave a big hole but at the same time you have to give youth a chance as well."

Shay Given is the last of the fab four to express his mixed emotions.

"I'll speak to my wife and kids, speak to the new Aston Villa manager (Paul Lambert) and Trapattoni as well. I've not decided yet, it's too soon. I'll get home and see my kids, spend time with them. It's been a long five weeks. In the cold light of day I'll have a think about it. It's too early to make rash decisions. I'm hurting and the rest of the team are too."

The consequences of so much hurt could become unbearable for an Ireland team now standing at the crossroads.

Irish Independent

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