Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 December 2017

Trap happy with new options

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI will stay in hospital for another week, but the FAI insist he will be fit and well to travel to Armenia for Ireland's opening Euro 2012 qualifier on September 3.

The Italian, who is recovering from an operation to remove scar tissue in his stomach and has been joined in Dublin by his wife and son, will miss the festivities at the FAI's AGM in Wexford next week, and it is possible that the squad announcement for the trip to Armenia will be delayed until he recovers.

Otherwise, Marco Tardelli, who will stay in Ireland while Trapattoni remains in hospital, will fulfil those duties.

FAI CEO John Delaney said there is no reason for people to be sceptical about the manager's chances of making that long journey, even though what initially was expected to be a 24-hour stay has developed into a 10-day stint in the Mater Hospital.

"It's just recuperation," he said. "He is 71 years of age, but he is fine. There is no doubt about it, he'll be with us for Armenia and Andorra. It's still three weeks away. You can only take the medical people's advice and speak to Giovanni, but he'll be grand.

"Giovanni knows about the interest in it; he knows that given his profile there is a lot of attention about his health but he is adamant that he will be going to Armenia, as are the medical people."

In Trapattoni's absence, Tardelli stepped in for the customary post-match debrief yesterday morning, with discussion largely revolving around a number of players who will be going to Yerevan after furthering their cause in Wednesday's loss to Argentina.

Paul Green of Derby has pushed himself into the reckoning, although Glenn Whelan should start in the engine room once he returns to fitness. Green appears to have skipped ahead of Darron Gibson in the pecking order; the question is if he's capable of threatening Keith Andrews.

Manchester City's young left-back Greg Cunningham was introduced as a second-half substitute to replace Kevin Kilbane, and his performance impressed both Tardelli and Trapattoni -- the latter watching from his hospital bed.

"I saw Giovanni in the hospital and he was very happy," said Tardelli. "He told me good things. He felt maybe the strikers were isolated up front, but the match was very good in the second half.

"The younger players did well. I think the squad has more options now with Cunningham, Keith Treacy and Andy Keogh. I know that we have a good player in Cunningham.

"We feel he is ready. Giovanni will come back and he will have a decision. Kilbane played well also. He can decide to play experience or youth."

Left-back is one problem area for the management, and striking cover is another issue of concern, with Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle well ahead of the alternatives.


After Doyle was left out of Wednesday's game as a precaution, Cillian Sheridan was the replacement, even though he'd played 77 minutes for the U-21s the previous night.

Anthony Stokes, who scored twice for the U-21 team in their 5-0 thrashing of Estonia, believes that he deserves a chance. However, the suspicion remains that his enigmatic behaviour on the pitch may not be in line with Trapattoni's thinking.

Sheridan, who offers an aerial presence that was sporadically utilised to good effect against Argentina, is favoured as back-up, despite his modest goalscoring record compared to Stokes.

Tardelli reckons that Stokes' cheeky chip from the penalty spot against the Estonians summed up just what a unique character he is.

"Stokes is Stokes," he smiled. "He is like Maradona, he decides what to do always. He works well, but he likes to play, he likes to have the people applauding him. In Italy, there is (Antonio) Cassano, a player with creativity who sometimes forgets the team and plays for the fans. Sometimes the coach decides to prefer players who are very concrete."

Yesterday also marked the launch of the Carling-sponsored Nations Cup, which will bring Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales together every two years, with the inaugural staging to be hosted in the Aviva Stadium next year.

The four teams will play each other once, with one round of fixtures in February and a further two in May. England refused an invitation to participate, with Delaney stating that details of a TV sponsorship will be revealed in due course. A draw will take place in September to decide the order of matches.

Delaney added that a bid to host the European U-21 Championships with Northern Ireland will be revived once the authorities in Belfast sort out changes at the top level of their association in the fallout from the sacking of their CEO, Howard Wells.

Irish Independent

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