All of which means that, in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, Paul Green has staked a big claim to a berth while James McClean, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman are likely to be counted among the men overboard.
The Ireland manager had his tongue only slightly in his cheek when he reached for a nautical metaphor yesterday. He spoke of how, once upon a time, sailing ships could find themselves at the mercy of the winds but, in the modern day, it was feasible to plot a solid course — and, more importantly, to stick to it.
In other words, however critics like Brian Kerr and Eamon Dunphy might deplore Trapattoni’s management style and tactics, the man himself is not for turning. Hence, his continued defence of the primacy of the result over matters of style and, by extension, his commitment to the players who helped steer Ireland to the Euros and, with Wednesday’s draw, extended the team’s unbeaten run to 12 games.
So, while the whole stadium the other night rose in acclamation of James McClean’s debut as a late substitute, Trapattoni’s reaction was somewhere between the amused and bemused.
“Can you take a joke?” he asked yesterday. “When I saw this the other night, I thought, oh, this must be Messi or Maradona or Pele. I am not being offensive. I know the way the media works and what happens with people. So, good for him, he is young and has enthusiasm. And I was very, very happy. But McGeady and Duff — I think they deserve respect.”
The manager later said he considered McClean and McCarthy “too young” for the European Championship finals.
Trapattoni confirmed it had been his intention to give the Wigan man some time on the pitch on Wednesday but said Ireland falling behind against the Czechs had changed his mind.
“I’m not going to put a player like him on the pitch if the team is already having trouble,” he said. “I will do anything I can to ease them into the game but the ranking is important. In future, I will ask Fifa and Uefa to not consider friendly games for ranking because then they would be a good option to use the young players. But it’s not only the ranking — 12 results without loss also increases our confidence and trust. That is why I pay attention to the result. If we had been ahead then we would have done things differently.”
Trapattoni also talked about how, during Wednesday’s game, he spoke to McCarthy on the bench about the importance of the midfield men winning back possession. And given that Paul Green has those aggressive characteristics — and was sent into action ahead of the Wigan player — it seems reasonable to assume that the Derby man is back in with a real shout for one of the expected eight midfield places in the Euros squad.
And although he was ruled out through injury this week, it sounds like Keith Fahey is also closer than McCarthy to making the cut.
“Fahey can also play left or right,” said Trapattoni, “I’m definitely taking him into consideration. And usually in this competition, with games every few days, defenders and midfielders are more likely to get yellow cards so we have to keep that in mind too. It’s important we have the good alternatives.”
Trapattoni has until the end of May to name his final 23-man squad but, barring injury to established players, it already seems like it will have a very familiar look.
The manager said Richard Dunne could now have as little as one game under his belt for Aston Villa by the end of the season but, with two friendlies — against Bosnia and Hungary — on the eve of the tournament, as well as the benefits of extended training camps both here and in Italy, he expects the defender will have recovered from his broken collarbone in time to play a full part in the finals.
“It will be difficult for us to choose just 23,” said the manager. “We have two or three other players who deserve to come with us. But the preference is experience. I just hope we don’t have more injuries because this now is basically the squad.”
And despite Liam Lawrence’s recent complaint that he’d effectively been cold-shouldered by the Irish management, Trapattoni insisted it saddens him to have to tell a player he has lost his place.
“Sure. This month, there was a player who asked ‘why I’m not here?’. I said, ‘I know you. I know how you are. I follow your games but in this moment I want to see others’ He said, ‘I am sad but I accept’.
“There were a couple of other players with whom I spoke in the past couple of weeks that I didn’t call up. I discussed this with the players and they were upset. I was upset. I always say, ‘I am keeping you in consideration’. The player is upset but it’s more upsetting for me to have to tell them. Bit I have to choose. That is my duty.”