Sport Soccer

Thursday 14 December 2017

Trapattoni strikes it lucky with front men

AS Robbie Keane approaches the back end of his Ireland days, he finds himself in territory that was familiar to all his illustrious predecessors: the cavalry has arrived, but for how long can they prolong his career?

Keane is the latest in a line of Irish strikers who had to shoulder the scoring burden largely on their own, with help arriving just when their career was winding down.

In the post-War years, the line runs something like this: Davy Walsh, Dermot Curtis, Noel Cantwell (converted from defence), Andy McEvoy, Don Givens, Frank Stapleton, John Aldridge, Tony Cascarino, Niall Quinn, Robbie Keane. When overlaps occurred, as in Stapleton and Givens, the latter was a veteran. The exception was the Aldridge-Quinn partnership, which began in 1990.

It seems strange then to find the present Irish manager with an embarrassment of riches, so much so that he might be leaving one, if not two, strikers behind next June.

* * * * *

During reflections on Euro '88, Jack Charlton's methods were a source of some amusement to RTE's soccer sages, especially John Giles, last Tuesday. Yet there are obvious parallels between Big Jack's tactics and loyalty to a close-knit group and those of Giovanni Trapattoni.

Here's a sample of the Charlton philosophy: "When you don't see your players for long periods, the game you play has got to be very simple to understand. It's got to be easy for them to learn and play so that they remember what they're at, the next time they play for you.

"It's not like a football club where you can work on things and practise getting it right, week in, week out. You can only remind your international players every month or two months or three months."

Difficult to see Trap disagreeing with that.

* * * * *

Though the future of his golf game remains in doubt, Tiger Woods has sharpened his communication skills. In fact, his handling of a potentially difficult meeting with Steve Williams at Royal Melbourne last Thursday amounted to a PR triumph.

Forget the platitudes about the luck of the draw, this Presidents Cup meeting would never have happened without Woods' agreement. And he was first to make a move, extending his hand to the former caddie who had verbally abused him.

Little more than two hours later, they shook hands again on the 12th green, after Woods and foursomes partner Steve Stricker had been crushed 7&6 by Adam Scott and KJ Choi. Then the Woods charm offensive continued. "I put my hand out there to shake it, and life goes forward," he said. "There's some great things that Steve and I did, and that's how I look at it. I know he probably looks at it differently, but hey life goes forward, and I'm happy with what we've done in our career."

It must have been the only occasion when a player was entitled to feel pleased after losing so heavily.

* * * * *

WHEN Pike Rovers had to change from their traditional green and white hoops for the final of the FAI Junior Cup on May 22, loyal fan Brian O'Brien feared the worst. However, he needn't have worried, for this is the year of the sky blues, the colour Pike wore when they won their final in Turner's Cross.

Other Sky Blue successes included Manchester City (FA Cup and Dublin Cup); Avondale (FAI Intermediate Cup); Na Piarsaigh (Limerick hurling champions for the first time); Garryowen (Munster Senior Cup) and, last but not least, Dublin (All-Ireland football champions).

* * * * *

When will we learn? Tuesday signalled a great night for Irish football and but something always has to spoil the moment.

After the final whistle went and the celebrations broke out, it was noticed that many of the banners displayed during the match had vanished. 'The Iron Curtain' showing the ever brilliant Richard Dunne and another displaying the words 'God Save Our Keane' mysteriously disappeared, much to the anger of some fans. What do these people who stole them plan on doing with them?

We're hoping they'll be on show in Poland or Ukraine next summer rather than being found in some city rubbish dump. The search continues.

Dermot Gilleece, Seán Ryan,

and Eamon Keane

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