Montecatini Hills Chop: Axed Foley Cops Cruel Blow

The Kevin Foley saga has cast the first cloud over Ireland’s Euro 2012 preparations. The Wolves defender confirmed he wouldn’t be staying on to watch the campaign from the sidelines, now that he has been cut loose from the squad. Yet decades of experience have thought Giovanni Trapattoni there can be no room for sentiment. With three ferocious battles ahead for the Green Army, all’s fair in love and football.

Kevin Foley has said he felt betrayed by the manager. He was told he didn’t have to train in Dublin last week and he wouldn’t be involved against Bosnia. Giovanni Trapattoni had informed him his injury would be assessed in the training camp in Italy and that there was no rush.

Foley trained for two days in Montecatini with no ill effects but with half an hour remaining before the final 23-man squad was submitted to UEFA, Trapattoni took the youngster aside to tell him he was out. Paul McShane would be taking his place as the Hull defender offered more versatility in his ability to provide cover at centre-half.

It was a cruel blow for Foley and he was understandably distraught. He had every right to use the word ‘betrayal.’ Unfortunately, the injury concerns over John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, and Sean St Ledger prompted Trapattoni to make a tactical decision and Foley was the one to miss out.

The manner in which it occurred was cruel but the injury dynamics within the Irish squad forced the management’s hand. Despite this, questions will again be raised about the quality of Ireland’s reserves.

When John O’Shea had his first injury scare during Sunderland’s last Premier League game, McShane was first on the call-up list. Trapattoni had intimated that O’Shea would be the cover for Stephen Ward at left-back. Yet if anything should happen to the Waterford man, and it was touch and go as the squad deadline approached, we no longer have recognised cover on the left side of defence.

Kevin Foley may rue that he lost out to Paul McShane but neither could have complained if Trapattoni had sought cover for Ward at either’s expense. Ireland’s head coach chose not to do so and he’ll need more of the luck that accompanied his side during qualifying if we are to negotiate the group unscathed.

Paul McShane is no stranger to the wrath of Irish supporters but he has handled the situation with a quiet dignity. The Wicklow man’s first thoughts were for his friend Foley. McShane didn’t put a foot wrong in the Bosnian game on Saturday and coupled with his stand-out performances during the Carling Nations Cup last year, he has decent form in an Irish shirt and has done enough to convince Trapattoni. If he is to play his part in Poland, McShane will need put in more flawless displays and even then he won’t convince all of his detractors.

Just as Aiden McGeady responded to the threat of James McClean, there is no better arena than the European Championships for McShane and the likes of Paul Green to answer their critics. Many feel it is too tall an order, but they must justify both the faith placed in them by the manager, and the heartbreak currently tormenting their team-mate Foley and others who missed out.

Trapattoni’s predecessor in the Irish hot-seat once famously said in a press-conference; “I’m the Gaffer; what I say goes.” On that score, Stan and Trap are on the same page but the players themselves are the only ones who can influence how the history books are written.

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