Trapattoni set to call on McCarthy

NEVER mind the new era in Irish politics, we seem to have entered a new era in Irish football press conferences.

And a welcome one it is too.

At FAI headquarters in Abbotstown yesterday, Giovanni Trapattoni prefaced his squad announcement for the Macedonia European Championship qualifier (and Uruguay friendly) with an apology for the fact that his slippery command of English might have led to some confusion in the past.

Consequently, he spent much of yesterday’s press conference having his Italian translated by interpreter Manuela Spinelli — and the results were illuminating, achieving a level of clarity that was previously absent where the vexed question of James McCarthy’s position in the Irish scheme of things is concerned.

As expected, the midfielder is included in the latest 29-man squad for the games on March 26 and 29, with Trapattoni also confirming that he and his assistant Marco Tardelli met with him in Wigan recently.

Asked how the meeting went, Trapattoni grinned and asked back: “How do you think it went? He had a smile on his face. He said: ‘I wish to stay with Ireland’. And I said, ‘Thank you on behalf of the Irish people’.”

The manager went on to insist that there had been “no misunderstanding” about McCarthy’s absence from the Wales game last month. Considering conflicting statements from Wigan boss Roberto Martinez and Trapattoni, that seemed to be stretching a point.

In any event, it seems both sides are now happy to sing from the same hymn-sheet, because not only does Trapattoni expect McCarthy to join up with the squad, he also strongly hinted the player will make his long-awaited competitive debut on March 26 — and end, once and for all, any chance Scotland have of claiming the Glaswegian.

“Maybe he will not be on from the start,” said the manager, “but we will see how the game goes and once the situation is clear we can put him in. On the other hand, if he convinces me in training that he is ready to start, then why not? Sean St Ledger did that in the away match against Bulgaria.”

Trapattoni admitted he needs to give thought to how the Irish team and system can best accommodate the 20-year-old. Said the manager: “I know he can play in the centre of midfield, behind the striker or on the right or left of midfield. Technically, he is an eclectic player. And we have to find a way that supports his strengths.”

The other big talking point in the squad relates to the manager’s choice of goalkeepers in the absence of Shay Given. QPR’s in-form Paddy Kenny misses out on the chance of a comeback, with the nod for cover going to two uncapped keepers, Darren Randolph of Motherwell and ex-Derry City man David Forde of Millwall.

“(Goalkeeping coach) Alan Kelly has followed them,” said Trapattoni, “and he told me we have very good options. We haven’t forgotten Paddy Kenny but this was the right time to introduce different options.”

And the manager says he has no doubts that, now he is recovered from injury, Coventry’s Keiren Westwood is ready to add to his meagre five caps. “I have confidence and trust in him,” he said. “He has shown us he is ready.”

While Stephen Hunt’s calf problem rules him out, Trapattoni had encouraging news on Richard Dunne’s recovery from a shoulder injury. “He said to me that he is already back in training, feels good and feels he will be ready.”

And, although happy too to have Robbie Keane back in the frame, the manager said that the player’s readiness for the fray will have to be evaluated when he joins up with the squad in Dublin on this day week. But perhaps Trapattoni’s biggest smile of the day was reserved for talk of Damien Duff.

“We hope he stays in the same form,” said Trapattoni. “He’s one of our best players, and a good guy. There are periods in a player’s career where, with maturity, they reach a level of calm which, psychologically, allows them give the best they can because they’re happy what they’re doing.”

Such was the generally upbeat mood that Trapattoni — 72 on Thursday — didn’t even allow the spectre of Stephen Ireland to darken his mood. Trapattoni seemed charitably inclined to attribute Ireland’s recent accusation of arrogance to “colourful” reporting.

“I don’t know if he said that,” he said. “But I can say that it is not true that I am arrogant because I know that I have never adopted that attitude.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND squad: K Westwood (Coventry), D Randolph (Motherwell), D Forde (Millwall); K Foley (Wolves), J O’Shea (Man Utd), C Clark (Aston Villa), S Coleman (Everton), R Dunne (Aston Villa), S St. Ledger (Preston NE), S Kelly (Fulham), D O’Dea (Celtic), K Kilbane (Huddersfield); M Wilson (Stoke), D Gibson (Man Utd), G Whelan (Stoke), P Green (Derby), L Lawrence (Portsmouth), J McCarthy (Wigan), A McGeady (Spartak Moscow), K Treacy (Preston NE), K Andrews (Blackburn), K Fahey (Birmingham), D Duff (Fulham); R Keane (West Ham), J Walters (Stoke), K Doyle (Wolves), S Long (Reading), L Best (Newcastle), A Keogh (Bristol City).

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