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Giovanni Trappatoni

Ireland v Cyprus is a crucial game for manager Trappatoni

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Giovanni Trappatoni

“It is a massive fixture with a huge reward at the end of it if we can win it and set ourselves up for Italy and Montenegro next month with the World Cup finals as the reward for winning all three games,” said Given.

“Cyprus are first up and they will be hard to beat as Italy know when Buffon was their man of the match over there and they won the game in the last minute but I don’t think Cyprus are our bogey team.

“They are a decent side as we know but we just have to be better than them on the night and set ourselves up for those final two fixtures in Croke Park.

“They are a good team but we were very poor on the night. A lot of people performed below par and it was a bad night to be involved with the Irish team.

“It left a scar but that won’t help us this game nor should it simply because we know what is at stake now as regards this fixture in its own right.”

Nicosia veteran Kevin Kilbane has also warned his Irish teammates not to underestimate Cyprus as he looks to banish the memories of that fateful night.

“If you want to find a massive stick to beat yourself with as an Irish footballer, then Cyprus it is,” a forthright Kilbane told Star Sunday.

“If we are honest about it then there isn’t an Irish player, official or supporter who was there that night who wasn’t scarred by that Cyprus result in 2006.

“It hurt a lot that night and everyone felt it so much, players more than anyone. It hurt at the time and it still hurts. Whenever we are together as players and talk about it that pain comes rushing back.”

Happy to talk about his Nicosia nightmare before the return event, Kilbane insists the talking will stop in the build-up to the game.

Trapattoni has already placed his team on a war footing ahead of the latest battle of wits against the “provocative” Cypriots, and Kilbane is well aware of what’s at stake in the foothills of the Mediterranean capital.

“The last visit there is going to be brought up so many times this coming week and that is only natural, but as players we cannot afford to get caught up in it,” warned the experienced Hull midfielder now Ireland’s first choice left-back.

Trapattoni, meanwhile, will eye top place in the Group Eight table and automatic qualification when he steps onto the pitch at the GSP Stadium before the game.

The Ireland boss is convinced that his native Italy will slip up against Georgia on Saturday or Bulgaria next Wednesday before their October visit to Dublin.

The Italians currently top the Group Eight table, but three wins from the remaining fixtures he regards as “three cup finals” will have Trapattoni laughing at his own country’s expense.

Trap has repeatedly warned his Irish players to beware of provocation and intimidation from a Cypriot side who felt they deserved a draw in Dublin 11 months ago.

But he also knows there is a major reward in store for his team if they can take three points from Nicosia and set themselves up for an October epic against Italy. 

“We have to play our own game and forget about everyone else. If we win in Cyprus –- then the possibility is there for us to overtake Italy when we come face to face in Croke Park,” said Trapattoni.

“Plus Italy also have to play Bulgaria again and they have no guarantee of winning that so I am not giving up on anything.”

McGeady's Dive

CELTIC’S Irish winger Aiden McGeady is the latest player involved in a diving row after he was sent off at Hibs on Sunday, but manager Tony Mowbray has claimed his player is no cheat.

McGeady was in the wars just days after Arsenal striker Eduardo conned a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League and now faced disciplinary action from UEFA.

McGeady was handed a second yellow card for diving and then a red when he went down under a challenge from defender Paul Hanlon as a goal from Georgios Samaras secured a 1-0 win at Easter Road.

Celtic boss Mowbray was unhappy with the McGeady decision. “If the Eduardo situation had not been blown up so big nationally, 99 times out of 100, maybe even 100 out of 100, it would never have been a yellow card,” he said.

“I think the referee has been influenced by the diving situation. I don’t need to look at it again, it happened right in front of me.

“It was unfortunate for Aiden. It was a poor decision and we are in all in disbelief. You have to put it into the context of the boy traveling 50 yards before the incident. He went to ground because he was knackered.

“Is it a dive? Never in a million years. A dive is when you try to influence the referee, you throw your arms up and so on.”

Hanlon also defended McGeady but insisted he made no contact with the Hoops player.

Celtic crashed out of the Champions League when they went down to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last week –- and Gunners striker Eduardo went down like a lead balloon to earn a controversial penalty.

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