Giovanni Trapattoni
A man from the FAI rang about something or other on Monday and got to talk, briefly, about events of the previous seven days.

Like many of his FAI brethren, he had been quiet during the week that followed Ireland’s record 6-1 defeat at home to Germany in the World Cup qualifiers.

FAI sources, for all the newspaper headlines, were fairly thin on the ground when the real pressure was on Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni in and around the win in the Faroes.

Most of them, in fact, only took their heads out of the sand on Thursday, 24 hours after the FAI board had voted to carry on with Trap as manager and fly in the face of popular opinion.

Not that popular opinion has ever been, or should ever be, the modus operandi for those we charge with running Irish football.  Their job is to ensure that the Irish soccer team gets the best chance possible to qualify for major tournaments.

That’s why they decided last Wednesday, as is their right, that a 73-year-old Italian is still the right man to lead us to the World Cup finals in Brazil two summers from now.

They are in a minority by the way. Everyone from great football men like Johnny Giles to crowd pleasers like Eamon Dunphy think Trap is no longer the best man for the job.

Dunphy, whose opinion changes as frequently as the weather, even went so far last week as to suggest that Mick McCarthy should get the job back again.

That’s how bad things are with the Irish football team right now, a team that has lost its public and the belief of all but the most diehard fans.

The problem in such circumstances is that it is very hard for any manager and any team to win the fans back.
In the short term they have friendly games against Greece and Poland to look forward to at the Aviva, but neither of them will be blessed with full strength squads or full houses.

The Green Army will vote with their feet for the Greek game next month and the immigrant Poles may well outnumber the Irish at the Aviva next February.

After that we have to go to Sweden in March and play the team that came back from 4-0 down after 50 minutes to draw with the Germans in Berlin last week, the same Germany team that hammered us 6-1 on our own patch.

By then, as the FAI man and I agreed on the phone the other night, all the criticism and all the speculation about Giovanni Trapattoni will be chip paper. That’s what happens to even the snappiest back pages on the best newspapers in this part of the world.

Trap has the rest of this World Cup campaign to prove the FAI right and the critics and fans wrong.
Rightly or wrongly he is here for the long haul, and the rest of us have to get on with it.

The manager isn’t going away, but neither are the problems of his rein or the headline writers.

He is making an effort. On Friday, Trapattoni met his FAI boss John Delaney in Dublin when it was made clear that he has to attend more matches in England and actually watch his players.

The FAI board also wants him to mend his bridges with the likes of Darron Gibson, Kevin Foley and James McClean to name just three of those who have fallen out with their boss of late.

And they’d be happier if he spent either more time learning English or made more use of his translator, the lovely Manuela, so nothing is lost in translation.

On Saturday, Trapattoni was a well known face in the crowd as Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington starred for Chris Hughton’s Norwich in a shock 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal.

The reports say he took note of a particularly impressive performance from Hoolahan, one of the players most Irish fans want to see now get a chance with Ireland going forward.

If Trap introduces Hoolahan and Pilkington and their likes against Greece and Poland, then he might win back some of his doubting public.

If he loses against Sweden next March then the knives and the headline writers will be out in force again.
And the only promise I can make you is that the headlines will be a lot less palatable than the headlines they will eventually be wrapped around.

The chip paper is only on hold – it hasn’t gone away you know!

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor with the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)

Sideline Views
SOCCER: Alan McLoughlin will always be known as the man whose goal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park sent the Republic to the 1994 World Cup finals and that wonderful American adventure.  Last weekend Alan told the heartbreaking story of his battle with cancer and his determination to win it after he had a kidney removed just six weeks after he passed blood. Alan wants men everywhere to keep their health in check and we should listen to him. He also admitted to the Irish Sun on Sunday that he has watched his goal against the North many times in recent weeks, whenever his spirits have needed lifting. It is on YouTube, I checked, and it is worth watching. Alan would like you to.

GAA: Amazing story in Tyrone, where the manager of the Errigal Ciaran football team has stepped aside for the quarterfinals of the Ulster club championship due to his loyalty to his hometown. Ronan McGuckin oversaw Sunday’s win over Cavan side Mullahoran, but he won’t take charge for the next game against his native Ballinderry. McGuckin doesn’t want to plot the downfall of a club his family is synonymous with and has asked to be relieved of his duties for the next two weeks. It’s a fairly unique situation and one that could only happen in the GAA.

CYCLING: Bike racing is not my thing, but it has been hard not to escape the Lance Armstrong story this week. My favorite moment was the headline in the U.K. Sun when Nike dropped Lance from their sponsorship rota. “On Your Nike” it read. Nearly as good was their headline when the England match in Poland was postponed for 24 hours due to a waterlogged pitch. Next to a photo of the England manager Roy Hodgson wading through the puddles was the headline “Roy of the Rivers.” Like it.

GAA: The goalposts regularly move as far as the FAI is concerned, but now the GAA is moving them as well. Literally. After reviewing a number of contentious scores at county grounds in Portlaoise and Tullamore, the GAA have decided to erect new goalposts at both grounds. A report in the Irish Sun says they will be higher in an effort to make it easier for the referees and their umpires to decide when the ball has gone over the bar.

GAA: The Limerick fan who decided to hit a player during Sunday’s county football final got more than he bargained for. Not alone was he photographed as he lashed out, his picture appeared in almost every national newspaper with his face clearly identifiable. To cap it all off, said fan received a 96-week ban from all GAA activities from the Limerick board. He might think twice about such behavior again.

GAA: Speaking of Errigal Ciaran’s win over Mullahoran on Sunday, as we were earlier, there were some nasty scenes at the game in Cavan when an irate supporter went so far as to throw a bin at an opposing player. Said supporter was arrested by police at half-time. All they threw at him was the book!

GREATNESS is to be admired in any sport, and there is no denying the greatness of wonder horse Frankel. Henry Cecil’s charge won his 10th Grade One and his 14th in all at Ascot on Saturday under the Irish jockey Tom Queally. Trainer Cecil described him as the best horse he was worked with afterwards and possibly the best flat racer ever. He may have a point.

FANS hitting players has been a common occurrence on both sides of the Irish Sea this week, but the Leeds fan who ran onto the pitch and hit the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland during a Championship game live on TV takes the biscuit. He has since been arrested and sent to jail for four months with even the Leeds manager Neil Warnock saying the sentence was too lenient. Have a look at it on YouTube if you can. It was appalling.