Malahide 'staycation' awaits Trap's troops
IN these recessionary times, the term 'staycation' has entered the vernacular of the cash-strapped. Now, someone will have to teach it to Giovanni Trapattoni.
The distinctly awful American phrase relates to penny pinching by taking a holiday at home. Which is what the Irish team will be doing this summer for what, regardless of this week's sunshine, can surely no longer be referred to as a 'warm-weather training camp'.
Trapattoni started his tenure as Irish boss with a week in the Algarve that proved significant in hindsight with the talents of Glenn Whelan identified, and the absence of Andy Reid punished. The Irish boss has spoken enthusiastically about the prospect of a similar jaunt this year ahead of the uninspiring May friendlies with Algeria and Paraguay at the RDS.
"Maybe not Portugal, maybe another country, maybe Corsica or Sardinia or somewhere else," he said in February.
The FAI researched the prices, considered the possibilities and came up with a plan. And, in the end, they opted for Malahide. Yes, the same venue which the Irish side use as preparation for every home game.
They may have a decent playing surface at Gannon Park, but it is no secret that the seaside location is exposed to the elements. Trapattoni generally opens most of his post-training press conferences with some sort of comment about the conditions. It is rarely to express delight.
There's no credible way to put a positive spin on the decision. In simple terms, this is another knock-on effect from the failure to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa and the subsequent strain on the association's finances. Without that boost, the senior team are subject to cutbacks. Although considering their hefty wages, you can't imagine too many people shedding a tear.
Ireland's trips to the Algarve in 2006 and '08 arose from a commercial arrangement with Oceanico, who provided the accommodation in Praia da Luz. With that deal expiring, they lack a sponsor with the ability to extend such an invitation. Trapattoni hinted after the friendly loss to Brazil that it would be nice if there were other interested parties out there willing to welcome his squad to their domain. Alas, the appeal came to nothing.
So, between May 16 and May 21 he will run fringe members of the squad and newcomers through their paces in North County Dublin, with no indication yet whether there will be any open training matches during this time. Senior figures like Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne will be given permission to skip the exercise before returning to Malahide for the build-up to the friendlies.
The FA Cup final, Championship play-offs and other lingering club commitments shall excuse some others, or result in late arrivals.
Does the location matter? Well, the weather will have an impact. Trapattoni opted for double sessions in the Algarve, and there was never any problem with the scheduling because of the perfect sunshine and calm conditions. Driving wind and rain makes for a less effective class-room.
Additionally, getting the players away together generally serves as a more effective bonding exercise. In Praia da Luz, it was far easier for the squad members to go for a stroll unnoticed, and even pop out for a sanctioned meal and drinks at the end of the week, than it would be in Dublin, where they're only a camera phone away from the perception of a booze problem. By avoiding that, they end up trapped and bored.
But that's life. The FAI have to look at cutting costs wherever possible, especially with their commitment towards the Aviva Stadium and their difficulties in selling the 10-year tickets.
Fixture commitments with their under-age and women's teams are a costly business given the level of travel involved. Noel King's U-17 ladies are in the Ukraine this week, while the U-17 boys have just returned from Greece. The U-15s are in Holland and a trip for the U-16s to Belgium is imminent. Next month, the U-19 group are off to the Ukraine again.
It would be worth shelling out a penny for Trapattoni's real thoughts on the end-of-season plans. The Italian did take a pay-cut in extending his contract for the Euro 2012 campaign yet, the €1.8m-a-year boss can't have imagined that the top team would have their plans revised by financial concerns.
The contrast with the build-up to the World Cup qualifying campaign is stark. Back then, Trapattoni was delivered with a pristine training camp, and warm-up games that he requested against the likes of Serbia and Norway; European teams lined up with a view to the battles ahead.
This time, he gets to bring his team to their own back yard, before games against North African and South American opposition that will be staged in a showjumping arena. If another campaign ends in ultimate failure, you fear that his successor will be forced to stage his meet and greet in Mosney.