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Saturday, June 16, 2012
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has given his backing to the idea of an all-Ireland soccer entity, as it would make us a "far stronger team".
Describing himself as "a big supporter" of the concept, he made the comments as the fallout of the Irish team’s demolition by Spain in the Euro Championship engulfed the country.
Roy Keane once again managed to cause deep division and debate with his comments about the team’s display and the fans’ reaction to Thursday’s 4-0 loss, the biggest defeat for the national side in more than 40 years.
Referring to the concept of an all-Ireland team, the Taoiseach stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity, but stated: "I would be a big supporter of . . . [this]. They would certainly qualify for World Cups with a much stronger team. But then I’m not in control of that, I’m [just] giving my personal view."
FAI sources last nightdescribed the comments as "interesting".
Mr Kenny added: "We can do so much more in the interests of the island of Ireland, as we [already] do in rugby and boxing."
He said an all-island philosophy had produced top-class performances that were astounding.
Mr Kenny’s support for a politically-sensitive change to football structures drew a mixed reaction from leaders in the North.
Peter Robinson, the first minister, was hesitant: "I think, as a general principle, politicians should stay clear — apart from the supportive role that they should have — of sport. Everybody knows the direction that I would want to travel, but let’s not make political issues about sporting matters."
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister, supported the idea: "I agree with the Taoiseach, and this is not a political point. I do believe that on the world stage, football-wise, we’d be much more effective players if we were to choose from an island which has 6m people."
He added: "My attitude is if a team is playing in green, I’ll support them."
Meanwhile, FAI chiefs have given Giovanni Trapattoni their full support in the wake of the defeats by Croatia and Spain at Euro 2012.
Chief executive John Delaney, asked yesterday if Trapattoni’s position would be reviewed, said: "He has met the objectives that the association set out, which was to qualify for a major tournament.
"Yes we’ve had two very bad performances, one against the world champions. The one that disappoints us most was the Croatia game."
Delaney added: "I think he’ll want to do well against his home country on Monday night. It would be great to go home with three points at this stage and finish third in the group."
Trapattoni insisted he was the right man to lead Ireland through the World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
The 73-year-old Italian said: "I think that we [he and assistant Marco Tardelli] deserve to stay on.
"The reason is we have achieved qualification for the first time in 24 years.
"If you read the names of the squad when we came [and read the names in the squad now], you can see how many players we have brought into this team.
"I think it is our right [to stay on]. I have enthusiasm to stay, also for you and your colleagues."
Trapattoni signed a two-year extension to his contract after Ireland qualified for Euro 2012.
The extension takes him to the end of qualification for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, in which Ireland face Germany and Sweden in a tough qualifying group.
In what occasionally became a heated press conference, Trapattoni was asked if his system was at fault. What mistakes, if any, did the manager make?
"When a team lose, only the manager is to blame," he said, before adding an immediate caveat that pointed the finger at his players.
"But also, we conceded a goal after two minutes and 30 seconds against Croatia, and again a goal after four minutes against Spain.
"It is very difficult against these teams. After those minutes, that changes everything . . . You give the advantage to a strong team, and then it becomes very difficult. This happened with Croatia and happened again against Spain.
"Our players do not have the habit of playing in a tournament like this. We had an attitude in our games that I have not seen in two years [of qualifying]."
Trapattoni promised to make some changes to his starting line-up against Italy, but warned against expecting wholesale alterations.
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