Not for the first time questions were asked of an Irish soccer player and an Irish soccer team at halftime in a crucial World Cup qualifier last week.

Stephen Hunt was sat in the corner of the dressingroom at the San Nicola Stadium in Bari when one of the Irish team doctors approached him.

He was asked two simple questions. The first concerned the name of the opposition awaiting Ireland for the second half of their Group Eight game.

The second required him to identify the city in which the game was being played. Hunt was able to reply Italy and Bari respectively and was allowed out to play.

Minutes earlier our Hunty had entered the same dressingroom convinced in his own head that the teams were level after an heroic first half performance from the boys in green against the world champions.

That’s what happens when you get a bang in the head in the opening minutes off a Pirlo free kick, a bang exasperated by the fact that technically the Reading winger wasn’t the required 10 yards from the ball.

Concussion ensued, so much so that Hunt had no idea that Italy were a goal to the good when he entered the Irish dressingroom at halftime. He even told me the other day that he thought Kevin Doyle was winding him when he said Ireland really needed an equalizer as they headed down the tunnel.

And before he went out for the second half the Irish assistant manager Marco Tardelli tried to convince Hunt that he was in fact Diego Maradona!

The bang on the head wasn’t enough to make that one sound convincing, but to be fair the Irish team did answer all the questions asked of them in a second half performance that deserved the point that came their way courtesy of Robbie Keane’s late late equalizer.

Indeed the Green Army might even have celebrated an historic win seconds later had Keane made more of the very last chance of the night.

By then Hunt was back with us and back to his best with a man of the match performance that certainly put it up to Giovanni Trapattoni in the absence of the injured Damien Duff, the same Duff who did manage a substitute appearance for Newcastle and new boss Alan Shearer on Saturday by the way.

Trapattoni too had questions to answer on his return to his home country, and a media corps that still loves him considering he was clapped into a press conference the day before the game -- by the Italian journalists, not us!

Some of us felt like clapping late on Wednesday night as we made our back to Bari Airport for a late night flight home, but we were still in shock.

The result, a deserved one, wasn’t the cause of our surprise, even if the performance was the Jekyll to the Hyde on display in that pathetic performance against Bulgaria the previous Saturday night.

No, it was Trapattoni’s bravery that caught us all on the hop, even the pundits back in the RTE studios in Dublin who misjudged it completely, but that, as they say, is a story for another day, and far be it for me to engage in a spot of Dunphy bashing when everyone else is at it!

For months I’ve been telling anyone who will listen -- and even the wife and kids who don’t really want to -- that Trapattoni is more conservative than Maggie Thatcher.

I’ve even claimed that if Trap was the taoiseach for the Celtic Tiger years the country would be in clover now because he wouldn’t have let us spend a penny of our gains.

Up to now he has been a defensive coach, a man who believes in a rigid 4-4-2 system and would rather have Messrs Andrews and Whelan in the center of his midfield than the likes of Andy Reid or Stephen Ireland.

All was changed, however, though sadly only briefly, when fate worked against Trap in Bari.

Blessed that the Italian striker Panzini was sent off for an innocuous challenge on John O’Shea that drew blood in the second minute, Trap couldn’t believe his eyes when poor defending allowed Italy in for a 10th minute opener via the gangly Iaquinta.

Sensing blood on the Italian lawn -- his blood as it happened -- Trap went against the grain and took a gamble. In the 20th minute he replaced Andy Keogh with Caleb Folan and switched to a 4-3-1-2 system with Keane in the hole behind Doyle and Folan.

At halftime he moved O’Shea to right-back and the hapless Paul McShane into center back. Minutes later he introduced both Darron Gibson and Noel Hunt as substitutes and he went for it.

I nearly fell out of my seat in the West Stand as Positive Trap took the reins from Conservative Trap. And it worked.

Ireland played more creative football in the final 70 minutes at the San Nicola than they had done throughout the group. Freed from the shackles of the 4-4-2 schema, these Irish players took the game to the World Cup winners.

They might even have won it as we got a glimpse of how good life under Trap could really be if he matched our passion with his tactical knowledge and went for it a bit more often.

By Thursday morning and a Dublin Airport press conference in the Clarion Hotel Trap was telling us that the adventure in Bari was a one off.

He’ll be back to 4-4-2 in Sofia in June, so let’s hope they get a man sent off, then go a goal up in the first 10 minutes and Trapattoni throws caution to the wind again.

If he does that wind could carry us all the way to South Africa.

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