An All Ireland soccer team is back on the discussion table after Ireland suffered heavy losses to both Croatia and Spain in the opening matches of the UEFA championship in Poland.
The Irish Examiner reports that the matter has quickly become an issue. Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson and deputy minister Martin McGuinness have all spoken out about what they believe Ireland’s future soccer plans should be.
Speaking from what he calls a strictly personal view, Taoiseach Kenny said he supports an all-Ireland soccer program. "I would be a big supporter of . . . [this]. They would certainly qualify for World Cups with a much stronger team. But then I’m not in control of that, I’m [just] giving my personal view."
"We can do so much more in the interests of the island of Ireland,” he added, “as we [already] do in rugby and boxing."
However, Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson is not so sure about the potential change: "I think, as a general principle, politicians should stay clear — apart from the supportive role that they should have — of sport. Everybody knows the direction that I would want to travel, but let’s not make political issues about sporting matters."
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister, also supported the idea: "I agree with the Taoiseach, and this is not a political point. I do believe that on the world stage, football-wise, we’d be much more effective players if we were to choose from an island which has 6m people."
"My attitude is if a team is playing in green, I’ll support them."
In the wake of Ireland’s upsetting defeat at the hands of the world champions Spain at the UEFA match on Thursday, many wondered if manager Giovanni Trapattoni's position would be reviewed. However, FAI officials still support Trap.
Said John Delaney, chief executive for FAI, "He has met the objectives that the association set out, which was to qualify for a major tournament.
"Yes we’ve had two very bad performances, one against the world champions. The one that disappoints us most was the Croatia game."
"I think he’ll want to do well against his home country on Monday night. It would be great to go home with three points at this stage and finish third in the group."
Trapattoni said that he believes he is the right man to lead Ireland through the World Cup qualifiers in 2014.
"I think that we [he and assistant Marco Tardelli] deserve to stay on,” said Trapattoni. "The reason is we have achieved qualification for the first time in 24 years. If you read the names of the squad when we came [and read the names in the squad now], you can see how many players we have brought into this team. I think it is our right [to stay on]. I have enthusiasm to stay, also for you and your colleagues."
While Trapattoni admits that the managers are to blame for such losses as Ireland suffered in the UEFA, he did add that the players did allow early goals from their opponents in both matches.
Trapattoni promised to make some changes to his starting lineup against Italy, but warned against expecting wholesale alterations.