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Ireland's Euro joy doesn’t mask real life worries

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Giovanni Trapattoni 
Giovanni Trapattoni did the right thing on Monday afternoon when our European Championship euphoria was ignited and deflated in the space of five short minutes at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

The eyes of the world, well the Irish soccer world anyway, were on Trap shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time when he entered the press conference auditorium at the new Lansdowne Road.

Thanks to the joys of technology, it was possible to follow Trap’s every word on the Internet as he revealed the names of the 23 men who will carry the nation’s hopes to Poland this summer.

The room was packed and the country as expectant as the reporters present as Trapattoni reeled off the usual suspects and the surprise package – James McClean of Sunderland had made it into our Euro plans via the back door.

Less than a year after he left Derry City for Sunderland, McClean will be flying to Poznan with a real chance of playing against Croatia, Spain or Italy in the European Championships.

The decision to take McClean in that traveling party caused the biggest stir in the Aviva and among the online audience when some of those journalists present tweeted the make-up of the squad before Trap opened his mouth.

The omission of Wigan midfielder James McCarthy provoked almost as big a storm in Twitterland -- for a few brief moments. Then we saw the perils of Twitter in all its glory.

The Internet, and all that goes with it, is indeed wonderful. I can talk to you guys in America via Irish Central any day I want to. Email allows me to send this column from Dublin to Manhattan without the aid of a pigeon or an Aer Lingus jet.

Twitter is the Internet in an instant. My colleagues were able to tweet who was in the Irish squad on Monday before Trap had unfolded the most coveted piece of paper in Ireland’s football history since the Genesis report.

When some of those present at the Aviva copped the absence of said McCarthy, they were aghast. More than one questioned Trap’s sanity for an instant.

Then we learned, from the manager, that McCarthy had asked to be excused from the European Championships because his father has been diagnosed with cancer.

Indignation turned to sympathy and, I suspect, even embarrassment in some quarters.

The elation that surrounded McClean’s elevation to Euro squad member was matched in terms of sorrow and support for McCarthy’s plight.

Both are young men with the world at their talented feet. Both play in the Premier League, earn more money than they can spend and are idolized by millions.

On Monday, all McClean’s dreams came true. On Monday, we learned the full extent of the nightmare that McCarthy and his family are currently enduring.

Football is great and the European Championships will be wonderful. They will offer us all an escape from the drudgery of life in Ireland these days, and they may even kick-start the economy that has been ruined by our politicians and bankers.

But the European Championships mean nothing in the greater scheme of things. We will be all get very excited come June, we will all savor every minute and every moment of Euro 2012.

But there’s nothing we can do for McCarthy’s father. Not a thing. He must fight his own battles, and we should be glad that his son will be there beside him.

That, as Trapattoni acknowledged on Monday afternoon, is more important than any football match.
The rest of us would do well to remember that salutary lesson this June.

*Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper.

Keegan Wants Irish Open Crown
RORY McIlroy may be the best golfer in the world right now – and that’s official – but he won’t have it his own way when the Irish Open travels to Portrush on the Antrim coastline at the end of June.

Darren Clarke, a local resident who has done much to put the royal links back on the map, is one man with his eye on the most coveted prize on the Irish calendar.

Another is the American Keegan Bradley, who confirmed on Tuesday that he wants to come home to Ireland and play professional golf in the land of his ancestors.

Bradley, as many of you will know, is the current USPGA champion and a major winner, just like McIlroy and Clarke.

He is also, as some of you may know, a very proud 25-year-old Irish American who wants to make his European Tour debut on home soil next month.

“I’m very proud of my Irish heritage,” said Bradley in a press release issued on Tuesday to announce his arrival at Royal Portrush where he will tee off alongside the likes of Graeme McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke.

“My family roots are in County Cork and I’ve wanted to represent them in the Irish national championship. Also, Graeme and Darren both have told me what a fabulous layout Portrush is, so I’m doubly excited about the opportunity to compete there.”

Keegan is the nephew of women’s Hall of Fame legend Pat Bradley, another golfer proud of her Irish roots who had the audience captivated whenever she spoke at the Solheim Cup in Meath last September.

Pat will be back this summer to cheer the Ryder Cup wannabe on against Ireland’s very own major winners and the pair of them, aunt and nephew, are guaranteed one thing – a real Irish welcome at Royal Portrush.

Sideline Views


SOCCER: Roy Keane surprised many with his decision to have a pop at Mick McCarthy again on his return to Dublin last week but good luck to him – all he did was maximize exposure for the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind as he does each and every year at this event. The former Ireland captain did admit in his Sun column on Sunday that he was surprised at the level of interest ahead of the 10th anniversary of Saipan, but I doubt he was surprised at the response from FAI chief executive John Delaney. He told Roy to “get over himself.” Time to move on, folks. It’s all water under a very dark bridge at this stage.

SOCCER: The curtain is about to come down on the Scottish season with Celtic as champions and Pat Fenlon’s Hibs guaranteed another year in the top flight, which is more than can be said for Rangers. Their cash problems continued on Tuesday when the Vietnam veteran Bill Miller did what some Rangers fans suggested he should do and went home to America – without rescuing the club. There’s a real chance now Rangers could be in the Scottish Third Division next season and that’s not good for Celtic, no matter what their fans might think.

SOCCER: Much is being made in these parts of the knee injury that will keep veteran Barcelona defender Carlos Puyol out of the European Championships, but I wouldn’t see it as a good thing. Spain will now have to play a younger player at the back – probably Sergio Ramos alongside Gerard Pique – and that can work to their advantage at the Euros. The expected loss of David Villa may be a harder burden for the Spanish to overcome. And that would be good news for Giovanni Trapattoni.

GAA: Surprise, surprise – the GAA’s trials for Hawk Eye technology have already hit a stumbling block. Hawk Eye is the technology used to make line calls in tennis, and many thought the computer based system would help GAA referees make tough calls. But it seems the early experiments at Croke Park have not proved satisfactory. There’s no word yet on whether or not the proposal will be discarded, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I was a Hawk Eye fan.

HEROES OF THE WEEK
IT took Kilkenny about five minutes to put Cork’s youngsters out of their misery in the National Hurling League final on Sunday. By halftime the game in Thurles was over. By full time we knew that Kilkenny will take some beating in the championship this summer. The All-Ireland is theirs to lose. Again.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK
AT least one Northern Ireland “fan” took to Twitter on Monday to abuse James McClean and threaten his life after the Derry-born Sunderland star was selected by Giovanni Trapattoni for the European Championship finals. McClean seems to enjoy goading these lunatics on Twitter, but the vile nature of the abuse should really be investigated by the police in Belfast and the perpetrator thrown in jail. For a long time. Such bigotry knows no place in sport.


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