Monday 22 January 2018

Shels boss McDonnell lashes out at Trap over lack of respect for domestic league

Shels boss John McDonnell
Shels boss John McDonnell

Garry Doyle

The League of Ireland community have reacted angrily to Giovanni Trapattoni's dismissive view of the domestic game.

In particular, John McDonnell, the Shelbourne manager, has shown no hesitation in disparaging Trapattoni's claim that "Ireland, unlike Austria and Sweden, has no league" by reminding the Italian of the fact that 14 of the players he capped, including five involved in Tuesday's game in Austria, were graduates of the Airtricity League.

"I can stand over what I have done in the League of Ireland, getting St Pat's into Europe and beating an Elfsborg team who had Anders Svensson in their ranks," he said.

"Keith Fahey played Svensson – a man who had 80-odd caps at the time – off the pitch in that game. Then the same Anders Svensson turns up five years later and scores the winning goal against Trapattoni's Ireland in a World Cup qualifier.

"So, if he thinks there is no league here then he is completely wrong and disrespectful. What he needs to understand is that if the FAI did not have a competitive league then, they would not be permitted to have the international team which provided him with a decent living for the past five-and-a-half years."

In a break from the gushing praise which has accompanied practically every sporting obituary written since Wednesday's sacking, McDonnell went on the offensive, picking holes not just in Trapattoni's argument, but also his playing philosophy.

"He didn't trust the players to express themselves," said McDonnell. "James McCarthy, the poor lad, must have ended up in hospital the other night with a brace in his neck after watching all the balls go back and forward over his head. McCarthy is well able to play, but Trap didn't want him to.

"To me, one incident summed up the whole era last Friday – when Shane Long broke through and couldn't square a pass to Robbie Keane. Instead he pulled a brilliant ball back to the edge of the box – but no one was there. If it had been England, Gerrard or Lampard would have been arriving to score. But this was Trap's Ireland and our two midfielders were stuck in the centre circle, told not to get forward."

Instead of progressing, the only direction Irish football was moving under Trapattoni was backwards, he said, as a forensic examination of the Italian's results revealed that in his 18 competitive games against higher-ranked opponents, there were no wins. His only competitive victories came against Georgia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Andorra, Estonia, Armenia, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.

And yet he became just the third manager in history to bring an Irish side to the finals of a major tournament. "But let's put that Euro 2012 campaign into context," said McDonnell. "Trap was very lucky to get Estonia in the play-offs – and I can relate to their standards because I was working with the Faroes then. We beat Estonia. They were ordinary. Had Ireland got any other team in those play-offs, then we wouldn't have got through.

"For me, when you look back at his era, a lack of cohesion sticks out. Our underage teams were playing 4-3-3 and then the senior team, under Trap, operated a really rigid 4-4-2 system.

"It is like serving an apprenticeship in a factory and then being told: 'Okay you have done your time, you are on the factory floor now. But hold on, you are not working with those tools any more – here are some different ones to use'. It was wrong, totally wrong."

The task now, though, is for the FAI to get it right. Martin O'Neill appears to be the chosen one. Few are complaining. "He would be a fantastic appointment," said Sligo Rovers boss Ian Barraclough.

Irish Independent

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