|Irish rugby boss Declan Kidney|
Declan Kidney has surely met Giovanni Trapattoni in the course of the last few years or so at some awards dinner or other for the best in Irish sport.
So the fact that both their futures could well be determined by events in the coming month won’t seem all that strange to either the coach of the Ireland rugby team or the manager of the Irish soccer squad.
Kidney, from what I know, isn’t anything more than a social soccer fan.
And Trapattoni has explained to us more than once that Italian rugby is a minority sport for a minority he isn’t part of.
They are both renowned coaches however, men with success-laden pasts who understand the cruel irony of sport – only success in the future will keep them in the job.
For both men that future is now short term. Kidney’s contract with the IRFU runs down at the end of the spring, while Trapattoni’s gig with the FAI will end with Ireland’s involvement in the World Cup.
Thus March could be a wicked month for both of them when Ireland’s rugby heroes will conclude their Six Nations campaign and our soccer team face Sweden away and Austria at home in crucial World Cup qualifiers.
Of course, February still comes before March on the calendar. We may be living in austere times on this side of the Atlantic, but the year still runs to the same order. The IMF and the EU haven’t got their mitts on that one yet.
February kicks into gear on Friday. The rugby team kick into championship gear with a game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, and the soccer stars face Poland in their first outing of 2013 in Dublin next Wednesday.
Neither game will decide Kidney or Trapattoni’s immediate future.
The IRFU, as is their wont, won’t make any decision on Kidney’s chances of leading Ireland into the next World Cup campaign until after his Six Nations fate is sealed.
The FAI have already passed one vote of confidence in Trapattoni during this lackluster qualifying campaign, when he survived that dreadful 6-1 mauling at the hands of Germany at the Aviva Stadium last October.
So it is highly unlikely that Trap’s paymasters will come to any shock decision if Ireland lose to Poland in a game designed only to get the troops back into action ahead of the trip to Stockholm in March.
What will happen next week is that both games, against Wales in rugby and Poland in soccer, will serve as a yardstick for the months to come.
Trapattoni won’t stand or fall by his team’s performance or result in a match likely to attract more Polish immigrants than Irish fans to the old Lansdowne Road.
But his selection, his tactics and his mood will tell us just how he is going to treat the game he cannot afford to lose in Sweden at the end of March.
He has, at least, been bold with his squad selection, and we can only hope that the Norwich pair of Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington and boyhood friends Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick get a chance to show what they can do for a decent period of time against the Poles.
We’ll know more about Trap’s state of mind this time next week when his team to play the Poles, which will be out in time for the next edition of the Irish Voice. I can promise you we will discuss the same subject, same time and same place, next week.
By then, we will also know how Ireland’s Six Nations season is going to shape up after the opening match on Saturday against a Welsh side which has won all of the last three encounters between the Celtic cousins.
Like Trap, Kidney is being brave with his team selection, and that’s a good thing. Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy will start in Cardiff despite their youth, and that’s a positive.
So is Kidney’s current attitude to judge by his comments in an interview with the great Michael Corcoran of RTE Radio at last week’s launch of the Six Nations championship in London.
Asked about his own future – and this could be his last title bid in charge of Ireland – Kidney quoted from a saying passed onto him by an old friend, a saying that is well worth repeating.
The former school teacher told RTE, “A fella told me once that if you want to make God laugh, tell him what you’re doing tomorrow.
“My tomorrow is just about getting ready for our opening Six Nations match against Wales. Whatever happens in the future, happens in the future.
“I’m just going to enjoy the now. To have the privilege of coaching Ireland this year is a huge honor for me and one that I take really seriously.