Giovanni Trapattoni is a lucky man -- he got to meet the great Jack Charlton in recent weeks and witnessed, first hand, the reverence which is reserved for our greatest football manager ever.

Their meeting, otherwise billed as a photo opportunity, took place in the Clarion Hotel at Dublin Airport that was the home, spiritual and otherwise, of the Irish football team throughout the Charlton era.

Big Jack was in town to promote his latest nice little earner -- this time it’s a promotion for the League of Ireland sponsors Airtricity which has put him back on the national stage.

Trap was here to announce the squad that will face Russia at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night and Slovakia in the far flung reaches of a city called Zilina next Tuesday.

Their little get together was a meeting of two great football minds as well as being offering these two sociable seventy-somethings a chance to renew an acquaintance that was first struck when they were both players.
Trap, as he told us at another Aviva gig on Friday, was very taken by Charlton’s demeanor and impressed that his interest in football is as strong as ever even if he is still struggling to remember the names of Irish players.

What also struck Trapattoni was the impression Charlton had left on the Irish people during his time among us.

Even for the few minutes they were together in the airport hotel, Trapattoni got a feel for the love which greets Big Jack every time he steps foot on these shores.

Now Trapattoni is far from stupid -- even sports free Ryan Tubridy was quick enough to spot that much when they met on Friday night’s Late Late Show.

That explains why Trap copped on very quickly a fortnight ago and soon realized that he will only ever be regarded as a success in Ireland when he takes a leaf out of Jack Charlton’s book and brings the good times back to Irish sport.

God knows we need something to shout about now like never before, as the idiots in charge of the country revealed that we now owe a whopping 50 billion to bail out Anglo Irish Bank.

Times are as hard here now as they were when most of us were forced to jump ship in the middle to late eighties when the national soccer team could have worn hairshirts in honor of their suffering fans.

The Team That Jack Built helped lift the country out of the doldrums back then with their heroics at Euro ’88 in Germany and the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.

As I have said many times before on these pages, the success of that soccer team gave us back our national pride and, in my humble opinion, helped to sow the seeds for the economic recovery that was to become the Celtic Tiger.

The sad thing is that we handed responsibility for that recovery to morons like Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan and the Fianna Fail-backed developers and bankers who have now driven the country to the brink of ruin.

In the meantime, we still have our sporting dreams to cling onto, dreams that will burst back into life this weekend when Trapattoni’s team face Russia at the spanking new Aviva Stadium.

Times are so tough here at the minute that the game has yet to sell out -- the FAI are even offering cut price tickets through various newspapers -- but it has grabbed the national interest.

Trapattoni wants to win it, mostly to take another step towards the 2012 European Championship finals in Poland and the Ukraine.

But he also knows that an impressive win for his team this Friday night against the might of Russia will go a long way towards his canonization as the heir apparent to Jack Charlton.

To get there he will have to qualify for a major tournament just as St Jack.

If he achieves that then Giovanni Trapattoni will put a smile back on all our faces. Just like Jack.

Aviva Rocks, But Not Bublé!

Stepped out of the old comfort zone at the Aviva Stadium a couple of weekends ago and went to a Michael Bublé concert -- but don’t tell anyone.

In truth, I was dragged to said Michael Buble concert and ended up in the dog house with the wife and the sister-in-law when I suggested he sang a lot of standards that Joe Dolan used to sing for half the price!

What was interesting about the night was the way the venue reacted to the demands of a big concert, quite well as it happened, though our position on the pitch did help with the sound.

What was really interesting was attending the Aviva in a non-working capacity and queuing like everyone else for the Dart back to Connolly Station where the car was securely parked.

The concert wasn’t bad, the venue was pleasant and the queue for the train out of there was the only blip on the night.

Last Saturday I was back at the Aviva, this time in a working capacity for the Leinster-Munster derby clash in the Magners League and all was back to normal.

I drove to the game and got there early enough to find one of the few parking spaces around the stadium.
I took my seat in the press box high in the upper reaches of the West Stand -- mostly because there were no seats available on the pitch this time.

And I enjoyed every single minute of it. Every single minute of a game that was high on intensity even if it was low on quality on times.

What was interesting was the way the public reacted to the latest derby clash between these two heavyweights of Irish rugby.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the 50,000 capacity new ground, the first time that has happened for any event of a sporting or musical nature.

And I have to say the atmosphere was quite spectacular as we finally got to see why the IRFU and the FAI and the government spent all that money on knocking down the old Lansdowne Road.

The stadium rocked from start to finish and the players responded with a game that was engaging from start to finish.

Both teams can take heart from their performance going into the Heineken Cup campaign this weekend while those of us lucky enough to have been there can be glad we were.

I’m not sure I can say the same thing about that Michael Bublé concert!

Sideline Views

SOCCER: Nice outbreak of hypocrisy in the Dutch camp where manager Bert van Marwijk has dropped the Manchester City midfielder Nigel De Jong from his squad for this week’s European Championship games as a result of the horrendous tackle that broke Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg on Saturday. It’s good that van Marwijk is finally taking action against the player but a pity he didn’t do anything over De Jong’s kung-fu tackle on Spain’s Xavi Alonso in the World Cup final.

RUGBY: Sad to report the death of Ireland and Munster rugby legend Moss Keane on Tuesday morning after a long battle with cancer. The big Kerryman will always be a hero to those of us grew up in the seventies watching Irish rugby matches live on RTE television of a Saturday afternoon. Keane came from a different era when, as his teammate Willie John McBride observed, sex was safe and rugby was dangerous. May he rest in peace.

GAA: Sport is suffering in the economic downturn and the latest example from Kerry proves it where AIB have abandoned their traditional sponsorship of the ‘man of the match’ award. The troubled bank used to stump up for a lavish presentation lunch on the day after the game but that’s history now. Sign of the times.


Brian O’Driscoll capped a great night at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday with the match winning try for Leinster against Munster, but that paled into near insignificance on Monday when Graeme McDowell became the latest Irishman to sink the winning putt in the Ryder Cup. GMac hit the headlines in the golfing world when he won the U.S. Open this summer, but this achievement may be even bigger for the man from Portrush.


Whoever decided to play the Ryder Cup in Wales on the first weekend in October got what they deserved when it rained almost from start to finish over the four days of extended play at Celtic Manor. The weather should be better in Chicago in two years, but that bad news is that that the 2014 event at Gleneagles in Scotland will be held in the middle of October. More rain so.