THE clock is ticking on Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as Ireland boss, and that’s before a ball or a German is kicked in anger at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night.
You know an Irish manager is under pressure when the bookmakers start to issue the odds on his successor.
Normally they wait until a qualifying competition has gone pear shaped before they issue such press releases, so the timing of this week’s news may appear to be premature.
After all, Ireland have only played one game so far in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers, and Trap’s team are unbeaten after winning 2-1 in Kazakhstan.
That statement, of course, doesn't tell the real story. Ireland didn't deserve to win in Astana and only two goals in the last two minutes, one from a penalty and the other from a substitute, saved Trap from his adopted nation’s most humiliating defeat ever.
Considering every football fan worth his or her salt has already agreed that Friday night’s opponents Germany will win Group C at a canter, that win was priceless.
Ireland, by all opinions, are playing for second best in a group that also includes Sweden and a rapidly improving Austria. Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands, next Tuesday’s opponents, are there to be beaten. They have to be beaten, which is why the near-thing in Astana last month was so worrying.
Now we face the second best team in the world on current form – and that with half the regular Irish side ruled out by injury.
As Joachim Loew was preparing for Germany’s next game by donning the Lederhosen and enjoying Oktoberfest -- the photos are on the Internet to prove it -- Trap was counting the causalities.
Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle were withdrawn by their clubs before the weekend action. James McClean, even though he played 90 minutes for Sunderland on Saturday, and then Sean St. Ledger became serious injury doubts on Sunday morning. Glenn Whelan joined them in the emergency room on Sunday afternoon.
By Monday lunchtime, the FAI were able to confirm that Dunne, Doyle, Whelan, St. Ledger and McClean would all miss the German game on Friday and the Faroes match in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean next Tuesday.
By Monday evening, the emails had started to arrive with Trap 2/1 on to be gone by the end of the qualifiers.
My good friends in Ladbrokes even went as far as to tell me that Mick McCarthy is already the red hot 5-1 favorite to “return in triumph” as Irish manager before this World Cup campaign is over.
Chris Hughton and Marco Tardelli are next up at 6/1, while Ladbrokes also have Roy Keane in the running but at a very generous 20/1, most likely due to his fractious history with the FAI.
As the bookies know well, Trapattoni is now a manager under pressure. Having a half fit team against Germany won’t help.
What matters, however, is not the German result. A point there would be a bonus in the greater scheme of things.
What really matters for Irish football in the next week is the match away to the Faroes next Tuesday night. That’s the real banana skin.
Another Kazakhstan and Trap shouldn’t bother coming back to Dublin. The odds on him getting the sack in such a circumstance won’t even be worth discussing!
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun)
Brolly’s a Good Guy
THERE’S a wonderfully warm story coming out of Belfast, London and the GAA right now concerning a man who is a hero and a villain in the eyes of many.
Joe Brolly is known to Derry Gaelic football fans as one of the heroes of their last team to win a senior All-Ireland title.
Brolly is known to most people outside Derry as the hard talking and oft times irritating punter who dismantles most teams on The Sunday Game on RTE television most weekends.
What few of us knew this past summer, as Joe put the pundit’s knife into Dublin and Donegal and Kerry and Cork with relative ease, was the knife awaiting him in London.
On Wednesday of last week we discovered that Brolly had donated a kidney to a GAA friend in dire need of one.
The transplant took place in a London hospital, and Joe and recipient Shane Finnegan were both doing well according to reports.
The news took the Irish public by surprise, but the generosity of the deed didn’t seem to shock those who know Brolly well.
By all account he is, and his actions now prove it, a very decent and generous man who will always help a friend in need.
He is also, judging by his comments, a very humble and self-effacing individual, quite something considering he earns his crust as a hard nosed barrister on the Belfast law circuit.
Speaking after the operation, Brolly said, “I’m honored to have been in the position to help Shane.
“He’s been waiting for a transplant for over six years and when I heard that the only possibility of a one was through a live donor I contacted his medical team.
“And, of course, in my considered opinion it’s all going according to plan – and thankfully the doctors concur!”
Shane Finnegan and Joe Brolly coach an underage Gaelic football team together, and that’s where their friendship stems from.
As he recovered from his operation, Shane told the media that no words can describe Joe’s kindness and generosity. He may well be right.
GAA: Jim McGuinness made no secret of his interest in a job with a professional sports team in a wide ranging and very interesting interview with his local station Highland Radio on Monday. Well known for his prowess in sports psychology, Jim has already spent time with Celtic and made a big impression on manager Neil Lennon. His knack of turning Donegal into All-Ireland winners suggests he has something special, and if Jim can set himself up financially for the rest of his life by utilizing that skill I doubt anyone in Donegal will complain. After the job he did with them this year he deserves everything that comes his way.
SOCCER: Nice to see the German team feature in the Irish media after they took part in the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich ahead of their visit to Dublin on Friday night. It seems it is okay for the German players to go on the beer but if the Irish did, it would be all over the front pages. There was a time when the Irish players were encouraged to go for a beer together and with the fans. And guess what – we qualified for more finals in those days as well! As Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said, “If it was up to me we’d have the Oktoberfest more often, because we always do well when it’s on.”
GOLF: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are chasing the cash in Turkey this week at the new World Golf Final event, and good luck to them. They may call it a final but we all know it is just a big fat cash cow for some of the best players in the world. If the sponsors are prepared to pay over $10 million to get Tiger et al over to Turkey then good luck to them as well. The bit I watched on Tuesday morning didn’t look that good by the way. And Rory didn’t look all that bothered with his over par opening round.
SOCCER: Interesting times at Bolton Wanderers after the club sacked manager Owen Coyle on Tuesday. Mick McCarthy is already the favorite to replace his fellow Irishman, but there’s more chance of Roy Keane getting the job according to my sources. Roy turned down the offer to work in Turkey last week, but the trip to Istanbul did let potential employers know he was back in the hunt for a job. Maybe that was the intention all along. If it was, it worked.
HERO OF THE WEEK
FOR reasons apparent elsewhere on this page, Joe Brolly is the stand out sportsman of the week on Planet Earth, never mind in Ireland. To donate a kidney, as he has done, to a friend is the most selfless act imaginable and surpasses anything anyone did on a sporting field in recent times. Well done Joe.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
LIVERPOOL and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez took another blatant dive in the weekend draw with Stoke City, a dive so comical that you almost had to laugh at it. Stoke boss Tony Pulis called for Suarez to be banned for assimilation after the game while the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers claimed his man is being victimized. An intelligent man, Rodgers must know a dive and a diver when he sees one. The best thing he could do now is sell Suarez and export the problem to some other league. The Italians for example like a bit of diving, so maybe Juventus will buy him in the January transfer window and do us all a favor in this part of the world.