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Column: Ireland Stuck In Limbo With Trap.
Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox tipped off last night. Cox rolled the ball to James McCarthy who tapped it wide to Seamus Coleman. Coleman took one step and drilled the ball down the channel in the direction of Walters. Germany regained possession. The clock showed six seconds. Pattern set.
If I could go back to anytime in the history of Irish football, it wouldn’t be far; just the morning of June 10th 2012. Hours away from Croatia, from our first game in a major championship for ten years. Freedom square in Poznan had been conquered in the name of craic the night before. A group of us sat in the sun with beads of condensation rolling down our pints. We had a fourteen game unbeaten run and clean sheets galore. We had a sense of unity and purpose. Anything was possible.
It’s worth remembering that Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland had not lost a competitive game away from home until that day in Poland. It was only the third competitive defeat of a four year reign. Since that game however, Ireland have lost four out of five competitive games with a goal difference of minus twelve. The quality of the opposition is a factor that cannot be ignored of course but the fact remains that San Marino conceded five to England last night and we conceded five after just over an hour.
In the hurly-burly of Ireland’s start you might have been forgiven for dreaming a result was possible. Jonathan Walters was at his pesky best and the AVIVA roared its approval with every crunching challenge. Then once Germany asserted their authority over these primitive tactics, the slide to defeat became inevitable.
The utter manifestation of Ireland’s incompetence was Darren O’Dea. It was a horrid sight to see an honest pro try to survive at that level. He was like a man going into a knife fight with a thumb tack. There were times when Tomas Mueller would flash across him, Miroslav Klose would dart left and Mesut Ozil would suddenly drift ahead of him and where once he was marking no-one, he now had to mark three. Quite a step up from Toronto.
Trapattoni pointed afterwards to the absence of Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Glenn Whelan and Robbie Keane as a reason for the humiliation. That is an entire spine of a team but it’s the entire spine of a team that got destroyed in the summer. His over-reliance on that spine has prevented players such as Seamus Coleman from getting any real experience at this level before being pitted against Marco Reus.
Coleman was one of the few bright spots, he was rash on a couple of occasions and might have done better at closing down Reus for the second goal but mostly his positioning was sound, his tackling crisp and his attacking purposeful. Injuries are the only reason he played last night and injuries are the only reason young players will play under Trapattoni.
The good things he has done in the job up until this point should not be forgotten. He inherited a mess and somehow gave it structure and meaning. Despite the humiliation that followed, getting to a major championship was a major achievement but every time his C.V is rolled out in his defence you are reminded that he is yesterday’s man. His defining honours in the game came when Michel Platini wasn’t even thinking about politics.
Trapattoni thinks about the next game, always the next game. Ireland need a manager now that will think about the next two year cycle. The FAI will not sack him and he will never resign so this World Cup qualifying campaign is about us stealing second and hoping for an Estonia.
Younger players will again be discarded once the spine return. Trap’s pattern is set and should the thousands that filled the AVIVA last night desert him now than it’s John Delaney who might wish he could turn the clock back, right up to the moment he offered him a contract extension before the European championships.
But there is no going back and unfortunately for Ireland, with Giovanni Trapattoni; there is no going forward.