Giovanni Trapattoni will meet with Richard Dunne in Birmingham today as he seeks to clarify the defender’s international future.
The issue has assumed added urgency for the manager in the wake of yesterday’s surprise announcement of Damien Duff’s retirement from international football which, coming on top of Shay Given’s recent departure, robs the Irish team of valuable experience on the eve of a new World Cup campaign.
The shock news of Duff’s retirement overshadowed the happier tidings for Trapattoni that captain Robbie Keane has committed to helping his country try to qualify for the finals in Brazil in two years’ time.
Although Dunne is already ruled out of the opening World Cup game away to Kazakhstan on September 7 with a groin problem, Trapattoni plans to meet the Aston Villa player when his club hosts Everton today, with a view to persuading him to extend his international career.
According to the manager, Dunne has already indicated that he would be available for the qualifier against Germany in October but Trapattoni conceded that, if as is expected, Dunne swaps Aston Villa for Stoke City, the change of club “could be a problem” in terms of his international future.
“We ask to meet him,” said the manager. “We can speak together. We will have more information about his injury, his ideas. I will know better then but I am, again, confident about him.”
Trapattoni will tell Dunne that he won’t be obliged to turn up for friendly games, a flexible working arrangement which he said will also apply to Robbie Keane, with Ireland’s record goal-scorer now looking set to start as one of two up front in Astana next month. But the manager insisted that the captain’s commitment to staying on was never in any doubt. “Without injury, Robbie will be here for the whole campaign,” he said. “‘I will always be ready for my country, always,’ Robbie said.”
However, it seems nothing could persuade Damien Duff to continue, with the player citing club and personal commitments as his reason for calling it a day. He originally notified Trapattoni of his intentions the morning after the recent friendly in Serbia. In subsequent telephone conversations, the Italian sought to change Duff’s mind but despite apparently agonising over the decision — even to the extent of saying that he’d endured sleepless nights this week — the player decided to stick by his decision.
With his focus on Fulham’s trip to Old Trafford in the Premier League, the 33-year-old declined to go public yesterday but, in a statement released through the FAI, he was quoted as saying: “It has always been a source of immense pride for me to represent my country. I found it very difficult to make this decision, not least for the respect in which I hold Giovanni Trapattoni. I have enjoyed so many good times in the green jersey and want to thank everyone involved, especially the fans for making the last 14 years so special. I want to wish Giovanni, Marco and everyone involved with the Irish team every success for the future and will be supporting them every step of the way.”
Trapattoni hailed Duff as “a great player and a great man” and conceded that Ireland will lose “creativity” with his exit. He also said that he proposed to Duff that he could use him for limited amounts of time during games, if that would help tilt his decision towards extending his international career. But, even though it was clearly an emotional call for the player, he was finally not for turning.
“I said to him that I’m very sorry because I think Damien was still important for us,” said Trapattoni. “But the life goes on. The others must show us now, players like (James) McClean, (Aiden) McGeady and (Seamus) Coleman.”
However, an immediate opportunity to impress in Duff’s wake has been denied Stephen Hunt, who was left out of the latest squad. According to Trapattoni, he spoke to the Wolves man before the Serbia friendly to tell him “you are in my heart always” but, for now, he added, “we try another way — but we will call him again the future, sure.”
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