Friday 17 January 2020

McClean is caught among Trap's 90 per centers

JOHN O'BRIEN

For a brief moment in Mullingar yesterday, a few hours after he had stretched his limbs on the lower reaches of Croagh Patrick, Giovanni Trapattoni appeared to throw garlands at the feet of James McClean.

Asked about the in-form Sunderland winger's prospects of making the Ireland's Euro 2012 squad, amid the Italian's customary babble of faltering English, the phrase "90 to 99 per cent chance of going to Poland" fell like a concrete block. McClean, it seemed, was as good as on the plane. Or was he? As ever with Trap, the precise meaning of his words was Messi-like in its elusiveness and he was soon motoring into reverse gear.

McClean's chances, as it happened, may be no more than "90 per cent" and, if that still sounded promising, it merely lumped him into a fringe group that also included James McCarthy and Darron Gibson. A group henceforth to be known as the "90 per centers". It is not as good a place to be as it sounds.

Yet those championing McClean's cause will have found renewed hope in uncertainty. Trap, as you'd expect, wouldn't be nailed down on the precise make-up of the 23-man squad he will name tomorrow week, so all you could do was look for clues in the garbled statements he made and perhaps he has never tired of playing this infernal game, but there were definitely one or two to be had.

He spoke, as he has done often times before, of his faith in the players who had achieved qualification and in the system he had imposed, but with one interesting caveat. "I am sure in this moment we can change also one another," Trapattoni said. "They know what they can do. Or what he can do too. What he have to do."

Okay, the "he" wasn't definitively James McClean, but if the cherished system allowed the luxury of incorporating one new presence, then it was easy to speculate that the Sunderland midfielder would be the beneficiary, possibly at the expense of Gibson, so noticeably named among the 90 per centers.

Trap also acknowledged McClean's goal against Bolton yesterday and, in contrast to the lukewarm praise of recent weeks, had only nice things to say. "His luck is possible," Trap said intriguingly.

"So when he plays not very well but he still has this opportunity. And that is important. Some managers think about these lucky players. But I don't think about him because he is lucky. But because he wants to make the squad."

Barring injuries, it remains the only remaining mystery and will remain so for the next eight days. Trap spoke of his relief -- indeed, surprise -- that Richard Dunne was fit enough to start for Aston Villa yesterday, but you could still detect concern in his voice. "I was worried. I said, 'be careful we need you'. "He will be important for us. All players in the squad are important, but especially Richard Dunne. For us he is one of the strongest."

There were other injuries, but nothing alarming. Keith Fahey and Stephen Hunt had knocks. Stephen Kelly had wrist surgery, but all, apparently, would be fine. "They answered me, in 20 days' time, they can be ready. Our doctor is in touch with their doctor. We wait in this situation. I hope they will be okay."

Along with the 23-man squad, Trapattoni will name a stand-by list of four names next week and he also revealed his hope yesterday of a final warm-up game against an Italian selection at their training camp in Montecatini. The game would be a benefit for the family of Piermario Morosini, the 25-year-old Livorno midfielder, who collapsed and died from cardiac arrest during a Serie B match earlier this month.

"We have discussed it with the organisers of the camp," Trapattoni said, "and with the FAI. It's not done yet but everybody agrees it is a good gesture."

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