|Giovanni Trapattoni - Credit: Getty
There is the small matter of a detour to Estonia next month before we get there of course, but we’ll talk about that a little later.
First, I want to tell you about the fine coffee and delightful buns on offer when we went to meet Giovanni Trapattoni at Three’s Dublin headquarters last week, in a fine building just off Grafton Street as it happens.
Normally at such events you get a cup of tea or coffee and maybe the odd biscuit or two for good measure. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, when we all had money even if it was borrowed, the FAI would lavish Kit-Kats on us. Such luxury.
Those days came to mind when we shuffled up to the fourth floor of the Three building last week to find a delightful spread awaiting us, one good enough to secure first place in the Lovely Ladies competition as featured on Father Ted.
We didn’t just get tea last week. We were offered an assortment of coffees, some of them with very posh names a million miles removed from a teaspoonful of Maxwell House, and an assortment of buns. That’s what the very nice lady called it when I asked her -- an assortment no less.
An hour after my first latte of the day -- and yes, it was far from lattes I was reared journalistically speaking on Navan’s Market Square -- I was back for more.
By then I had spent the full hour listening to Trappish, that strange mixture of English, Italian and German that is Giovanni Trapattoni’s mother tongue at such events.
Trap spoke at length about the Armenia game, the playoffs, Kevin Kilbane’s imminent retirement, Shane Long vs. Simon Cox, Robbie Keane’s injury and his new contract.
By the time the Sunday papers were finished with him and we were finished with Trappish for the day, I badly needed another fancy coffee with a bun thrown in for good measure.
Ignoring the cholesterol and blood pressure issues discussed in this column last week, I settled for a very nice Danish pastry complete with sultanas.
Then I noticed something very strange. The nice cup cakes in the corner of the presentation of the assortment of pastries for the media were all but untouched.
Nobody, or so it seemed, wanted a cup cake after listening to Giovanni Trapattoni for an hour or so.
The lovely lady responsible for the lavish spread assured me they were very nice. She even offered to wrap some for us so we could take them home to our nearest and dearest, but only one kind soul from the media fraternity partook of that offer -- and he had a flight to London ahead of him before passing on the cup cakes.
The media just didn’t want to know, not the only case of rejection that day.
Like us with the cupcakes, the FAI seem to have a similar problem with Trapattoni’s contract which expires in April, one of many subjects discussed at length in the Three building.
Perhaps the football writers present want to wait until we get to Poland and the Ukraine before getting stuck into the cupcakes, a metaphor for the European Championships themselves maybe.
There’s no doubt the FAI don’t want to open talks on a new deal with Trap until that Euro fate is decided after the two legs of the playoffs against Estonia next month. And they’re right.
For all Trap’s blustering -- you will read elsewhere on these pages that he threatened to walk before the finals if no new contract is forthcoming -- there is no point in talking about a deal for the time being.
Everything related to this Irish team and Trap’s future will be a whole lot clearer after the two games against Estonia next month.
If Trap can’t mastermind an aggregate win against an Estonia side that lost four qualifiers -- including one to Brian Kerr’s Faroe Island minnows -- then he simply doesn’t deserve another two years in the job.
If he gets us to Poland and the Ukraine -- even with the puke football he has enforced on his players -- then he will be guaranteed that lucrative extension to football’s richest pension plan.
Everything else is irrelevant. Like the man who baked those cupcakes, there can be no guarantees for Trapattoni right now.
All will become apparent after Estonia and not before it. Maybe then, Trap will get his qualification bonus and a new deal and we’ll eat the cupcakes.
GAA: Two greats of Gaelic games died this week, and both deserve to be remembered for their exploits on the football and hurling fields. Many’s the time, as a very young reporter, I listened intently to the musings of Meath legend Peter McDermott, known across the land as the Man With the Cap for his fondness for wearing a hat when playing and refereeing in All-Ireland finals. Peter was a great man who always had a great story to tell.
I never met Kilkenny hurler Martin White who died the other day at the age of 102. Martin was the oldest living holder of an All-Ireland medal at the time of his death, quite a feat if you think about it. May they both rest in peace.
SOCCER: Michael O’Leary confirmed the other day that he turned down the chance to put the Ryanair logo on Manchester United shirts last summer. He also declined, about eight years ago, the chance to become a shareholder in his beloved Manchester City. It’s a good job too -- imagine the conditions the fans would have to put up with if O’Leary was in charge. They’d have to pay for absolutely everything, seats would be free choice, there’d be one toilet per stand and numerous announcements during the match. There’d probably even be a big fanfare if the game ended on time.
Although, like Ryanair, Manchester City do know a thing or two about carrying passengers. They have one called Tevez at the moment.
SOCCER: Old friends are best. It was the great Polish footballer Zbigniew Boniek who drew out the balls that paired Ireland with Estonia in the Euro 2012 playoffs. That’s the same Zbigniew Boniek who played for Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus. Just in case Boniek didn’t do the right thing by his old boss in Krakow last Thursday, the draw was overseen by UEFA president Michel Platini, another Trap old boy. And it took place in a hotel previously owned by Sean Quinn and now controlled by Anglo Irish Bank. Little wonder then that we got a dream draw.
GAA: You know it is silly season time on the GAA calendar when Mick O’Dwyer gets linked with every vacant county manager’s job across the country. This week some would have us believe that Micko is going to take over the Roscommon team that recently lost Fergal O’Donnell as boss. Next week the former Wicklow boss will probably be tipped to take charge of Dublin if Pat Gilroy doesn’t hurry up and confirm that he’s staying with the All-Ireland champions. All good silly season stuff.
GAA: The Irish team will depart very soon for Australia to play their hosts in the bi-annual Compromise Rules series, the closest thing to international football our top Gaelic footballers get. I wish the Ireland team well, but I can’t promise to get up early in the morning to watch them play. Right now, I’d have more interest in watching paint dry. And I’m not alone. This sport is no more than an excuse for a jolly every two years.
HERO OF THE WEEK
SIMON Cox was slaughtered in all the usual quarters when Giovanni Trapattoni picked him to play for Ireland in the vital Euro 2012 qualifier against Armenia last week. Those firing the arrows in his direction clearly didn’t understand that Trap thinks Shane Long is too similar a player to Kevin Doyle to play them together. Nor did they appreciate how similar a player Cox is to Robbie Keane, the injured striker he replaced in the nervy 2-1 win at the Aviva. Cox responded to those critics with a Man of the Match performance, albeit in a very dull Irish performance. At least that left the regular suspects in the pundit’s box with egg on their face. Again.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
THE Wolves midfielder Jamie O’Hara announced to the world, again, on Friday that he doesn’t want to play for Ireland. We get the message Jamie. The fact you went public with it again just days after Giovanni Trapattoni’s side made it to the Euro 2012 playoffs makes me think Jamie would actually like a call from Ireland. I wouldn’t wait for the phone to ring if I was him however -- neither Trap nor England’s own Italian boss Fabio Capello seem in any hurry to make that call.