Wednesday 17 January 2018

No fear of a 'Harry's Challenge' for all-business Ireland squad

Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli . Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli . Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

MARCO Tardelli smiled at the notion that the Ireland players would be allowed a social outing in advance of Saturday's Euro 2012 warm-up match against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Italian football philosophy does not instinctively gravitate towards thoughts of group socialising when in training mode, particularly ahead of a major finals.

So when Tardelli (pictured) was asked if there were any recreational outings planned for the players this week, he looked bemused. Perhaps the suggestion raised images of a good old Irish knees-up. Perhaps not.

Probably the latter, because in truth, the Irish training camp will operate along traditional Italian rules: 'When in camp, we stay in camp. We focus only on the job to be done' is the mantra.

In any event, Tardelli paused, then replied with a smile: "Maybe it's possible this week."

Don't hold your breath, lads, particularly as on Sunday evening, Trapattoni decided on double training sessions for yesterday and today -- and with no footballs to be seen in the morning workout.

This is more like the Italian way. Forget bowling alleys, cinemas, and don't even think about the pub -- or a reprise of Jack Charlton's infamous 'Harry Ramsden's Challenge'. In fairness, no players will complain, and yesterday's sessions were more about limb-loosening than anything else.

Ireland's opening Euro 2012 Group C fixture against Croatia is just under three weeks away, and the management team wants the players primed for optimum performance in the country's first European finals since 1988.

That's why Saturday's match at the Aviva Stadium will be taken seriously by the Irish.

"We will not be taking this game lightly. We need the players to put in a strong performance because Bosnia is a very good team with very skilful players," said Tardelli.

"We also need to win because it's very important for the rankings and the morale of the squad for the matches to come."

In other news, Kevin Foley (hamstring) and Keith Fahey (groin) are making progress with their injuries. John O'Shea didn't train due to an ankle problem.

"We are not unduly worried about them. We don't see their injuries as being too much of a problem," said Tardelli.

The assistant manager is confident that Robbie Keane can play against Bosnia on Saturday, subject to medical confirmation.

Keane had a scan on his hamstring but all concerned will be anxious to have the LA Galaxy striker on the pitch as the Irish team bid farewell to the home fans. "I'm pretty sure Robbie will be ready for Saturday. The doctors are up to date with his situation," said Tardelli.

Irish Independent

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