Putting Money Where His Mouth Is
Giovanni Trapattoni insisted again the other day that you only need a few words of English to get by as an international football manager -- even when English is the mother tongue of the players under your guidance.

Less than a week after the England boss Fabio Capello said he could get by with just 100 words of the Queen’s finest in his day job, Trap said he could do with a few more English words.

He reckons he needs anything between 200 and 300 for what it’s worth, according to his press conference after the Dublin defeat to Uruguay.

In reality however, there are only four English words that matter to Giovanni Trapattoni in his dealings with those who run Irish football right now -- I WANT TO STAY.

And there are only another four words that should matter to the FAI when they reply to his latest request, delivered via the media yet again, for a contract extension -- YOU MUST QUALIFY FIRST.

Trap’s current lucrative deal -- he is paid over $2.5 million a year by the FAI and benefactor Denis O’Brien -- ends with Ireland’s European Championship hopes.

The optimists out there will tell you that he has another year and a bit to run, that the Irish team will be fighting for national attention with Pope Benedict when he maybe comes to Ireland in the summer of 2012 and they’re in Poland and the Ukraine for the Euro finals.

The pessimists, myself included, will tell you that it will all end in tears in October or November, depending on whether or not we finish second or third to Russia in the Group B table.

At present, according to some, we are joint top with Slovakia and Russia, but the rules of the tournament state that final positions will be sorted by head to heads -- hence the defeat to Russia in Dublin late last year could yet prove even more costly than we imagined at the time.

Sadly, I have yet to see enough from this current Ireland side to suggest anything other than the playoffs come November -- at best.

Russia have too many home games, including an Irish visit in September, to make them anything other than favorites for automatic qualification.

I also fear for the trip to Macedonia in June when the temperature will be as hot as the reception from the local team, still smarting that they didn’t grab the draw they deserved for their second half tenacity at the Aviva last week.

And I have yet to see anything from Trap to suggest that he has the courage or the foresight or both to get the best out of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy before this Euro group comes to a halt.

He did start McCarthy behind the ever improving Shane Long against Uruguay last week, but McCarthy looked like a lost sheep for the duration of his first full cap.

Clearly, Ireland hadn’t done enough on the training ground that week, albeit with limited time at their disposal, to make McCarthy comfortable in the floating position. That Trap’s supposed to be a training ground genius makes that scenario all the more disturbing.

I like Trapattoni as it happens. He comes across as a warm and affectionate and friendly man, the sort of man you would be proud to call your grandfather.

Alas, we are not paying him over $2 million U.S. dollars a year to act out the role of grandfather. Irish soccer needs more of a godfather right now -- without wishing to insult his Italian heritage.

We need a strong leader who can kick this current Irish team into shape, get us back to a major finals and give the ailing country something to shout about once again, something to be proud of.

Big Jack did just that for us when he scraped into the Euro ’88 finals and then beat England in Stuttgart.

If Trap can get us to Poland and the Ukraine next year, even if he has to scrape into the finals, then he will deserve a new contract and another two years in the job.

If he doesn’t, then we should get his translator to look up the Italian for goodbye, though I’m sure his limited English knows exactly what that means.   

Sideline Views
GAA: Living in Meath and shouting for the Royals, on the few occasions I do shout at a GAA match, means backing Dublin to win, something that is always a dangerous game to play in this media business. I have, however, been telling anyone who will listen that Pat Gilroy’s team will win the All-Ireland this year, and the fact that they are already into the league final just backs my view.
Unfortunately, a neighbor here at home hasn’t taken kindly to my forecast. I won’t tell you what he is going to do if my prediction comes through, but suffice it to say that my weight -- subject to criticism on our Irish Central website this week -- may not be a problem for much longer if the Jacks do meet Sam in September!   

GOLF: Sometime early on Thursday morning I will engage in an annual tradition and hand over some of my hard earned cash -- it’s getting harder to earn it by the day here in Ireland -- to Paddy Power and make my ritual bet on the Masters. I’m going Irish again this week, but not on Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell. Instead I’m going to take a punt on one Padraig Harrington. I just have a good feeling about Paddy this week – which probably means he’ll be on his new private jet and on the way home by Saturday!

HURLING: John McIntrye’s Galway team had high ambitions going into last Sunday’s NHL clash with Tipperary, ambitions that were well and truly grounded by the awesome All-Ireland champions. But it would be a foolish man who writes Galway off as championship contenders this summer.
The most important piece of news for Galway fans came 24 hours before their Salthill drubbing when Joe Canning returned to club action with Portumna. A fit Canning will make all the difference for the Tribesmen this summer. You can quote me on that.

RUGBY: Munster were well worth their Magners League win over Leinster on Saturday courtesy of a determined second half display from the Reds, but they may have done the Blues a favor. Losing to Munster for the first time in six games could be just the kick up the Arsenal that Leinster need ahead of Saturday’s mouth watering Heineken Cup quarterfinal clash with the Leicester Tigers. As a Leinster fan, I can only hope so.  
CRICKET: Those who run international cricket did themselves no favors on Monday when they announced that the next World Cup will feature only the 10 test nations, with no place for the likes of Ireland, Holland or Canada. Have they forgotten what we did to England last month? Or is that why they don’t want us at the next tournament? It all smells of sour grapes to me.

SOCCER: The QPR winger Wayne Routledge fell victim to an April Fool’s Day spoof last week when he believed a newspaper report that Cristiano Ronaldo is going to transfer his international allegiance from Portugal to Spain. Routledge fell for the spoof story and even asked his followers on Twitter if such a move was allowed by FIFA. There’s one born every day -- as they say.

SOCCER: Bohs boss Pat Fenlon has yet to commit his future to the cash troubled Dalymount Park side, little wonder considering his revelation last weekend that his players have to use bar stools as part of a makeshift gym when they train at the famous Phibsborough ground. And you thought that professional football was all glamour!

THIS is sort of last week, but Shane Long was quite brilliant in Ireland’s friendly defeat to Uruguay in midweek when he scored one of our two goals in the 2-1 defeat. He followed that up with more goals for Reading last weekend to keep their Premier League dreams alive, further proof that the Tipperary man is the rising star of Irish strikers. He’s still not good enough to displace Robbie Keane for the crucial game away to Macedonia in June, but it is good to know that the heir apparent to King Robbie is now in place.

ANOTHER striker wins another award -- and it’s not the first time Wayne Rooney has featured in this category. The Manchester United frontman was brilliant as he scored a hat-trick against West Ham and his team turned Saturday’s early kick-off around to win and stretch their lead at the top of the EPL title. What wasn’t acceptable was Rooney’s foul mouthed rant at the cameras which went live on television as he celebrated one of those priceless goals. Rooney has been charged by the English FA and could get a two match ban -- not half enough if you ask me. He is supposed to be a role model for kids after all.