James McClean

There's more than one radio show in Ireland that likes to entertain us listeners every Friday by reminding us of things that we’ve learned in the previous five days.

This week, for example, they could tell us that Al Pacino loves Dublin as the sort of thing we learned on Monday that we didn’t know on Sunday. You get the drift.

It’s an easy cop-out for a radio presenter at the end of his or her five day shift, a filler that makes him or her look clever in the eyes of the listeners whose ears should be more important anyway.

It’s not something the various sports shows on Irish radio tend to go in for but maybe they should – and maybe they could use Giovanni Trapattoni as this week’s star guest.

On Sunday, we learned a little about Trap when the “former” Irish player Liam Lawrence announced to the papers that he was disappointed to learn of his absence from the latest Ireland squad by text message.

Lawrence went so far as to send a text back to Trap expressing said disappointment – although he also thanked Trapattoni profusely for offering him so many opportunities in the green shirt.

Liam, by the way, might like to look at the DVD of Ireland’s Aviva defeat to Russia in the Euro qualifiers if he wants to know why he is no longer needed, but that’s another story for another day.

Certain people, in the usual quarters, were surprised that Trapattoni could treat a player like Lawrence so coldly.

Clearly, they are certain people who haven’t studied the Italian all that closely of late.

They are also the sort of people who have forgotten that the man in charge of our football team also treated the great Kevin Kilbane in the same manner – and Kilbane did far more for Irish football over the years than Lawrence ever did.

So you could have said on Sunday evening that we knew more about Trapattoni and his ways of dealing with people than we did on Sunday morning. Or not as the case may be.

What’s definite, and really definite, as you read this is that we know more about Trapattoni on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday (that bit depends on your timing) than we did on Monday.

On Monday morning, James McClean was the latest focal point for many campaigners as they again lamented his absence from Trapattoni’s plans.

One radio station, acutely aware that McClean’s Sunderland had beaten the mighty Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend, even campaigned on air for McClean to be finally recognized by Trapattoni and for his transfer from north to south to be rewarded with a call-up to the Ireland squad.

That call was made by a very good sports journalist and broadcaster called Nathan Murphy, at around 10 a.m. on Monday morning via the excellent Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM.

Within minutes, the FAI had released a statement announcing that James McClean and Paul Green – the
Green McClean Machine if you like – had been added to the Irish squad for the upcoming friendly against the Czech Republic in Dublin.

Nathan, a man not prone to the lazy radio journalism spoken about earlier in this column, was back on Today FM later that night as I made my way home from work.

And good man that he is, Nathan had a good laugh at his own expense.  He even offered to name-check any other Irish players who want to be called up for the Czech game on Wednesday week – for a small fee, naturally.

In fairness to Nathan and to Trap, I really doubt that McClean’s call-up had anything to do with Monday morning’s broadcast.

But it did prove that Trapattoni and his scouts do pay attention to what is happening at club level for Irish players in England. And that’s not something we really knew on Sunday night or on Monday morning.
So, well done Trap. Well done, Nathan. And well done James – at last.    

Kidney’s Lion Roar
THERE’S little or no chance that Ireland’s game with Italy will be postponed this Saturday, and even less chance that the visitors will win it – all of which is good news for coach Declan Kidney.

The recent cold snap in Paris may have caused the Ireland-France game to be called off at late notice, but it actually turned the heat up on Kidney.

At a time when he is being talked about as a future Lions coach, Kidney is actually under pressure in his day job.

Ireland’s defeat to Wales on the opening day of the Six Nations season served only to intensify the volume of the alarm bells that have been ringing since the World Cup collapse last autumn.

Just a couple of years after the Grand Slam, Kidney’s finest hour, there is a real worry that Team Ireland is in decline – a rapid decline at that.

The Golden Generation are coming to the end of their careers, and there is little yet to suggest ready-made replacements.

The manner of the defeat to Wales, as much as the loss itself, has added to the feeling of gloom in certain Irish rugby quarters, with the future of the coach himself now open to debate.

That’s why Saturday’s home fixture against Italy can’t come quickly enough for Kidney and his team.

They will, in all probability, win the match, but the performance will be even more important than ever.

If Ireland play an expansive game en route to victory then Kidney can breathe a little easier ahead of the remaining fixtures with Scotland, France and England.

If they don’t, he might well be thrown to the Lions before he gets any chance to coach them.

Sideline Views
GAA: The Kerry legend Paidi O Se was in flying form at the launch of his annual football tournament last week when he had a go at players having a go at referees during games. O Se is particularly aggrieved that modern day Kerry players are arguing with and moaning at refs. He also pointed out that it never happened in his day, but forgot to mention that Kerry were so good back then that they never had to contest any refereeing decision.

GAA: The Croke Park authorities get enough dirt thrown in their direction when they get things wrong, so credit where credit is due with regard to recent disciplinary decisions. Monaghan and Kildare have both been fined for a recent NFL brawl in Clones and the two junior clubs, Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses, have been banned from national competitions following disgraceful scenes at their recent game in Portlaoise. A hard line is clearly being taken now by the GAA’s disciplinary body – and rightly so.

SOCCER: Sunderland fans have started an online petition to name a stand after Niall Quinn at the Stadium of Light after he cut all ties with the club after a six year spell that saw him serve time as chairman, chief executive and even as manager for a brief spell. The football club is in a lot better state now than it was when Quinn arrived back at Sunderland, so the honor is well deserved.

GAA: Time to call a spade a spade. Four inter-provincial semifinals were played last Sunday, two each in hurling and football, and less than 4,000 fans turned up in total to watch the games. Efforts have been made to revive the old Railway Cup in recent years and sponsor Martin Donnelly has put his money where his mouth is, but it’s all a waste of time judging by the public apathy.

SOCCER: Robbie Keane may have indicated the possibility of a return to the Premier League ahead of his flight back to a Galaxy far away this weekend, but don’t bet on it. Once his wife Claudine gets back to LA I doubt she will ever let Robbie play in England again. And I wouldn’t blame her.

RUGBY: Tomas O’Leary and Peter Stringer look set to sign new deals in France and England in the coming weeks, and good luck to them. They have both served Ireland and Munster well over the years, and if the money is better abroad then they deserve the chance to chase it.

HURLING: Amazing story in Wicklow where 39-year-old Don Hyland has announced his retirement from the county team – after an incredible 22 years in the jersey! Now that deserves something more than a gold watch.

RUGBY: The government and the IRFU want to examine the possibility of Ireland hosting the sport’s World Cup in 2023. Maybe the Irish economy will be better by then!

ANTHONY Stokes has been in and out of the Celtic team a little too often for his own liking and not in the Ireland team at all, but he proved against Hibs on Sunday just how good a player he is. Stokes has been something of an enigma in the past, but his current form is good enough to convince the Celtic boss Neil Lennon that he is worth a new contract. It might even nudge Giovanni Trapattoni to take a look at him again.

THE British heavyweights Dereck Chisora and David Haye are never going to be world champions as long as the Klitschko brothers are around, but they sure are world class chumps judging by their behavior outside the ring in Germany at the weekend. Both are under investigation by the boxing authorities for the shocking antics at a post fight press conference following Chisora’s defeat to Vitali Klitschko, and both should be banned for life.