Giovanni Trapattoni went back to work this week and saw not one but two games in England as life gets back to something approaching normality for Irish football post Paris.
Our Trap, with loyal assistant Marco Tardelli at his side on both occasions, was in Portsmouth’s Fratton Park on Saturday and Fulham’s Craven Cottage on Sunday.
The papers here at home have made much of the fact that Trap saw Andy Reid play for Sunderland as they lost to Damien Duff’s Fulham. Sadly, it wasn’t Andy’s best game of recent times by all accounts.
Hopefully Trap still saw enough to persuade him to call Reid back into the fold for the training camp and possible friendly against March when World Cup favorites Brazil might just come to town.
Other players were on the agenda as well for our Italian manager, judging by what the papers have had to say since the latest Premier League action.
One report I read on Monday made much of the fact that both the Portsmouth full-backs for their win over Burnley were Irish as Steve Finnan and Marc Wilson manned the flanks.
Finnan would probably walk back into the Ireland team as Kevin Kilbane nears retirement, while the Northern Ireland-born Wilson also offers a real alternative at the back.
Another Irish player made the headlines on Monday morning, and with any luck Trapattoni will have had one of his many scouts at Everton to see Seamus Coleman’s home debut as the Toffees came from two down to draw with Spurs.
Donegal-born Irish under-21 international Coleman was the star of the show for the 75 minutes he was on the Goodison Park pitch and had a hand in both the Everton goals as they look to make their way back up the Premier League table.
His emergence, and that of Wilson at Pompey, will come as a bonus for Trapattoni as he starts to prepare for the European Championship qualifiers next autumn, but a worrying trend has also developed in recent weeks.
If the reports are correct, and I have every reason to believe they are, Trapattoni may also have been looking closely at the Portsmouth midfielder Jamie O’Hara on Saturday afternoon.
O’Hara is one of three players currently under the Irish microscope who have already played under-21 football for their native England.
Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan and Spurs defender Kyle Naughton, formerly of Sheffield United, are the other two Anglos who are about to be asked to join the Irish party, according to informed sources.
It’s a subject that is beginning to spark real debate back home, and only this Monday one of the most respected voices in Irish football openly asked why Trapattoni is pursuing English rejects.
Pat Dolan was born in Galway and raised in England, but no prouder Irishman will you find. He has devoted most of his life to the game of football and all of it to the Irish cause, be it as a player, coach, manager, fan or pundit.
In his Irish Daily Star column on Monday, Dolan basically told Trap to forget about Nolan, O’Hara and Naughton for one good reason -- they are not Irish.
They weren’t Irish when they wore the three lions of England on their under-21 shirts, so why should we expect them to be Irish now that the English senior team seemingly no longer rates them?
To chase them, as Trap seems prepared to do, is an insult not just to people like Dolan, but also to the players who did Trapattoni and their country proud in Paris a few short weeks ago.
We were proud of that team on that fateful night, and Trap should be proud enough of them now to put his Euro faith in them and add players who really want to play for their country.
Andy Reid is one Premier League footballer desperate to wear that green shirt, as he has made clear in more than one interview. Messrs Finnan, Wilson and Coleman are others just waiting to get the Trap call from Milan.
Reid, Finnan, Wilson and Coleman have one thing in common -- they’re all Irish and proud of it. They are the sort of people we should be pursuing to turn World Cup heartache into European Championship hope.
As Dolan said, the English has-beens should be left where they belong -- in England and with England.
Time for Funny Season Fun
IT’S funny season in the newspaper world, the time of year when thoughts turn to Christmas, end of year reviews and the chance to put the feet up.
Major international sport has gone into hibernation for a couple of months, the Premier League is just starting to crank up and the Champions League will only get interesting in the New Year.
Rugby will switch attentions to the Heineken Cup before the Six Nations kicks off in February.
Racing is starting to look towards Leopardstown at Christmas and Cheltenham in March, and only the European Cross Country championships in Santry next Sunday are flying the flag for the minority sports.
That’s one of the reasons why the Tiger Woods story has been getting so many headlines this side of the Atlantic as well as on your side of the Big Pond.
The news pages here are devoting almost as many column inches to Tiger’s birdies as they are to Wednesday’s make or break budget for the country, and the Irish public are lapping the story up.
Personally speaking I’m not that interested in what Tiger does away from the golf course, though I do find it amusing that his squeaky clean image has been shattered forever.
Of more interest to me last weekend was the chance to go back in time and sample the might of Horslips once again as one of our finest ever rock bands played Dublin for the first time in over 30 years.
A gang of us, all fortysomethings, used the concert at the O2 Arena as the perfect excuse for a sort of a Christmas party, and yes, we had a ball.
We let what’s left of the hair down and we were even asked to sit down during the encore by some fuddy duddys behind us who suggested we should have bought standing tickets if we wanted to jump around!
Trust me, one of my mates did tell them to get a life as we paid homage to these greats of Irish rock.
And while the night was a success from start to finish, it did have its moments of irony.
The first came when we stopped off in that fine Harbourmaster pub in the IFSC to watch the Chelsea-Manchester City game and saw Shay Given save a penalty from the England midfielder Frank Lampard as City won the big match.
“He’d have saved a few in Paris,” suggested Paul of the Lennons, and we all nodded our heads in mournful agreement as that old World Cup pain came back to haunt us.
An hour or so later I was high in the stands at the old Point Theatre when John of the Irwins asked me if I’d been there before.
I had been in the venue when it was the Point many times, but this was my first time at the new O2 Arena for a music gig and only my second time in the rebuilt theater in all.
Indeed, the last night I was there my great friend Bernard Dunne surrendered his world superbantamweight title to a little tank from Thailand.
Well the good news for all you boxing fans is that Bernard is currently in New York on a shopping trip with his lovely wife Pamela and enjoying the fine hospitality of hotelier John Fitzpatrick and his staff.
The good news for Bernard is that the O2 Arena is still standing and looking forward to his return there some night soon. He has yet to make any announcement about his future plans, but I have a feeling he’ll be back. He might even tell you if you ask him this week.
And, like Horslips last Saturday night, I am sure his return to the O2 will be an outstanding success. I’ll even get to my feet again -- and sod the begrudgers.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
Things are looking up for Irish soccer, even if the World Cup draw reminded us of what might have been last Friday. On Saturday young midfielder Darron Gibson scored again for Manchester United, while on Sunday the Donegal-born defender Seamus Coleman sparkled on his home debut for Everton. With youngsters like those two starting to make their mark in the Premier League, maybe we can look to the European qualifiers with something approaching confidence.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, a hero in our house, refused to shake hands with Manchester City counterpart Mark Hughes after his team’s Carling Cup defeat at Eastlands last week. What example does set that to the millions of kids who watched the game on television? And does every Frenchman associated with football nowadays have to act like a complete buffoon?
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