Monday 19 March 2018

What success means

With contracts to sign, places to play for and Joxer eyeing a return, David Kelly looks at the impact reaching Euro 2012 will have on the careers of six key figures

Had Ireland failed to qualify for Euro 2012, the immediate international futures of Shay Given, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane would have been imperilled.

A tortuous process to either retain Giovanni Trapattoni or ditch the Italian and begin the lengthy trawl for a new boss would have sidetracked the FAI for months on end.

The FAI CEO would have had to face down calls for his resignation and it would have been possible to predict a familiar bloodletting.

Thankfully, the only headaches are all party-induced. The old times are back. And with them, new but pleasant conundrums.

Giovanni Trapattoni

Should Trapattoni ever contemplate consummating his supposed desire to climb Croagh Patrick, he already has two blackthorn sticks embossed with the insignia of St Patrick.

The assault, one suspects, would hardly unnerve him.

The bitterest disappointment of Trapattoni's managerial career remains the premature Italian exit at the 2002 World Cup -- the great conspiracy -- and the self-inflicted nightmare that was the Euro 2004 implosion.

Still regarded as a relic by many, Trapattoni is arguably more feted in his own country now than ever before; most Italians are enthralled at how he has managed to transform the fortunes of an average international side.

Beneath his obvious charm, he knows his own worth and if the FAI want him to steer a path towards Rio in 2014, he will demand that they cough up the dough. He promised Ireland a qualification, just as he vowed to climb the famed western Reek.

"I once had a player who knew what was going to happen all the time," he told us in Mayo three summers ago when we asked him would he ever try for the summit. "You've anticipated what's going to happen."

Just as he mentioned the example of Greece in his first ever press conference and posed the question, "why not?" Trapattoni will relish the challenge of tilting at the European powers. Why not indeed!

Robbie Keane

For Keane, the vast gulf in emotion between the last two Irish play-offs couldn't be more pronounced.

After starring in the free-flowing, yet ultimately pyrrhic normal-time victory in Paris, Keane barely had time to collect his grief as Spurs manager Harry Redknapp curtly began to deliver the final axe to his top-level club career in England.

Cast aside by Spurs in the week after Paris, Keane's club travails would now become a serious concern when it came to his international career.

When Trapattoni averred to this dilemma, his captain issued a thinly-veiled threat to walk away were he no longer considered an automatic starter.

Last summer, with interest stemming only from the cannon fodder of the English game, Keane's stance had softened. The remarkable continuation of his formidable international strike-rate softened the shock of his sudden move to Hollywood.

He has disdained the requirement to seek loan football and the post-Christmas close season will be a perfect opportunity to recharge his batteries as he eyes the opportunity to make a second successive goalscoring impact on a major tournament.

Next summer may not necessarily be a swansong; Trapattoni views Keane as a player who can operate in a "Totti-esque" role should his pace, already receding imperceptibly, dramatically diminish.

John Delaney

It was Euro 2012 qualification or bust -- almost literally -- for Delaney and the organisation of which he is chief executive.

However, he knows that his organisation is not out of the woods yet, and the culling of staff in Abbottstown will continue -- it seems around 30, rather than 50, posts will still be made redundant regardless of qualification.

Delaney's most pressing task, the re-appointment of the three-man Italian managerial combination, does not on the face of it appear an awkward proposition, but it could become intractable for a number of reasons.

Firstly, his manager, who has demonstrated on several recent occasions his disdain for the kind of rubber-chicken antics of his employers in the FAI, will dig his heels in and refuse another pay cut.

Secondly, it is not yet clear whether media mogul Denis O'Brien is willing to stump up yet again to subsidise the FAI for another two years.

With his association still riddled with a €50m debt, Delaney's authority was predicated upon the senior team's qualification -- even if their success may mask so many deeper problems.

But, no matter his at times continuous desperate attempts to be loved, Delaney's position has been strengthened and his authority undoubtedly vindicated.

Richard Dunne

The Tallaght titan has waited a decade to banish the personal nightmare of his last appearance at a major championship -- and fulfil his destiny after almost seeing his career hit the buffers in 2003.

A career that has been disproportionately weighed in favour of fame, rather than glory, at both club and international level, has the chance to tilt further towards the glorious at this summer's European Championships.

His retirement would have been most likely had Ireland yet again failed to qualify but now, having failed to make even the subs' bench during Ireland's four-game World Cup campaign in 2002, Dunne is now an indispensable member of this Ireland squad.

His performance in the 0-0 draw in Moscow set a standard for international defensive displays which ensured that his name enters the annals of Irish sporting history -- he will be a key figure in Ireland's defensive mission next summer.

While Ireland has Kevin Keegan to thank for ensuring that his football career didn't end up in a drunk tank -- the only person who could ultimately really help Richard Dunne was himself.

His reward will accrue next summer at the European Championships and, if a complementary defensive partner can be maintained, there is no earthly reason why he could not still do a job in the next campaign.

Seamus Coleman

Of all the cause célèbres -- James McCarthy, Wes Hoolahan et al -- the case of Coleman will reveal as much about the direction in which Trapattoni wants to advance Ireland ahead of next summer's Euro 2012 Championships.

Since breaking into the Everton side in a blaze of glory two years ago against Spurs, he has joined an ever-expanding band of English Premier League full-backs who have been converted into wide midfielders.

One would suspect Trapattoni would admire such a conversion; in contrast, he appears to be deeply suspicious of it, regardless of his housing a former striker -- Stephen Ward -- as his incumbent left-back.

Trapattoni ignored Coleman in Tuesday night's dead-rubber and two factors conspire against the Donegal man's claims -- the manager's reluctance to assess the merits of players on the basis of Premier League form and the fact that there is only 90 minutes of international football available before the 23-man summer squad is named.

"Any national team manager wants to be able to select players that are playing regularly at the highest level, so obviously if Seamus is performing for Everton week-in, week-out it puts his name is the frame," says Everton coach and former Ireland midfielder Kevin Sheedy.

Trapattoni will surely afford him that chance, but whether Coleman is a main actor or an inactive tourist remains to be seen.


Christy Moore's eponymous Euro '88 hero has spent the last decade watching other sports try, and only briefly succeed, in capturing his heart, from the Irish rugby players to Padraig Harrington, from the Dubs to Katie Taylor.

As he painted the touchlines with his local soccer club from Ballybunion to Ballyshannon, and Belgard to Belmullet, Joxer wallowed in the shadows, longing for the chance to once more swap his voluntary endeavour for a glimpse of soccer paradise.

He lamented his players' lack of desire under Brian Kerr and cursed their growing aloofness under Steve Staunton; however, now he feels that there could be something special brewing amidst Trappy's Army.

His club didn't see the benefits of the Charlton era and with a Celtic Tiger been and gone, he wonders if the current mob will be any better at making sure his U-12s have somewhere to get togged at the weekends.

No matter. He still has a few tokens over from the Quinnsworth biscuit promotion to "shake a shamrock in Italy". Maybe Lidl will do a "lift a leprechaun in Lodz" gig.

All he needs to do is get a loan ... As for the real Joxer? Moore reported yesterday that, the last he heard, he had signed up to a silent order. Maybe it's time for him to come out of rehab and feature in a follow-up?

Irish Independent

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