Axe falls fast on ‘emotional and traumatic day’

In contrast to his swish unveiling at a packed RDS five years ago, Giovanni Trapattoni discovered his fate in a subdued airport lounge yesterday morning.

Axe falls fast on ‘emotional and traumatic day’

FAI chief executive John Delaney — flanked by president Paddy McCaul and honorary secretary Michael Cody — spelt out to the Ireland boss and his assistant Marco Tardelli that the game was up after a defeat to Austria less than 12 hours earlier culled the World Cup odyssey with two qualifiers left.

The Italian, so adamant in Vienna he wouldn’t quit, cut a compromise to accept half of the combined €900,000 salary remaining on his and Tardelli’s contract before catching a flight to Amsterdam and home to Milan.

This concession by Trapattoni, according to Delaney, came after the manager reflected overnight on the consequences of Ireland’s dismal qualifying campaign.

Once the FAI cancelled his routine press briefing yesterday, there had been an expectation Trapattoni would be axed in the coming days, yet its swiftness provided the surprising element to a saga dragging since last October’s 6-1 pasting by Germany in Dublin.

“Once Giovanni slept on it overnight, I think he knew time was up,” revealed Delaney. “It looks like we’re going to finish fourth in our group, not a good position by Giovanni’s own standards.” The official statement from the FAI on the matter, issued within 90 minutes of that summit starting, read: “We thank Giovanni Trapattoni, Marco Tardelli and Franco Rossi for the last five and a half years during which we qualified for our first major tournament in 10 years and were close to qualification for 2010 World Cup in South Africa after the play-off in France.

“This World Cup campaign has been disappointing but Giovanni leaves us with a group of good young players which should form the basis of the squad that the new manager will use for the European Championships in France 2016 when 24 teams qualify.”

Delaney admitted benefactor Denis O’Brien eased the burden on the FAI by subsidising the payoff.

Trapattoni’s players had also moved from international duty back to their clubs, although not without delivering eulogies about their fallen mentor.

James McCarthy, the midfielder that Trap took what seemed an age to trust as a starter in the team, revealed he was “gutted” by the news.

McCarthy said: “He stuck by me, gave me my chance and has been good for my career, so I’m disappointed to see him go. I’m gutted, to be honest.”

Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long used the platform of Twitter to dish out the plaudits too. “Legend of the game and took Irish football to the next level. Thanks for everything Mr Trapattoni,” tweeted Long.

Trapattoni’s loyal skipper Robbie Keane added his praise, stating: “In my view he has been a credit to the country and has carried himself with dignity as befitting a man who has given so much to world football.”

It was only later in the day confirmation arrived from Delaney that O’Brien had agreed to continue funding for the new management team “for the next two years at least”. The businessman paid half the salaries of Trapattoni and Tardelli, an estimated contribution of €5 million.

News of O’Brien staying on-board, coupled with his previous connection to Celtic, plus the fact Delaney is convening a meeting of his all-powerful board by early next week, seemed to align the planets in the direction of one standout candidate for the vacancy.

Add in that he’s currently on the market and the name Martin O’Neill sticks to the bullseye on the dartboard of targets. Not that Delaney, true to form, was giving much away. He even refused to rule out his nemesis Roy Keane, however unlikely a working partnership that would present.

“It would be nice to have a manager in place for our next game against Germany (on October 11) but it’s more important to have the right manager.”

Other names linked to the role included former boss Mick McCarthy and Chris Hughton, though either man would require the FAI compensating their current English clubs.

And so, after a day described by Delaney as “emotional” and “traumatic”, Irish football enters a new chapter. Emulating the eventful previous one will be quite a task.

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