IRELAND’S quest for victory in Europe no doubt begins with a great deal of goodwill from the worldwide footballing family.
The fall-out from Paris generated a tremendous amount of sympathy towards the Irish team and fans, most notably from the French people.
However, the saying goes that sentiment means nothing in sport and no one will be more aware of that than Giovanni Trapattoni.
In contrast to his predecessors, Brian Kerr, and especially Steve Staunton, he appears unfazed by the attempts of Ireland’s footballing media to ruffle his feathers.
Kerr bore the brunt of our hacks’ transformation since the purging in Saipan.
Sworn in on a wave of euphoria, the relationship between the international team manager and the media cooled most spectacularly and culminated in a ludicrous story about Robbie Keane socialising in Dublin on the eve of a vital qualifier against, ironically, France.
Never mind that Keane had management’s permission for recreational free-time in his home city, five days before the game; it represented a new low for the press corps.
The vilification and despising of celebrity had firmy taken root in Ireland by this stage, and our football team were still public enemy number one for the journalists who had cast objectivity aside long before by siding either against, or in the main with, Roy Keane, the great torch bearer for the country’s rise above mediocrity.
Keane’s opinion was, and still is, glorified in the Irish media, and with the FAI gaining no credit for airing its dirty laundry in public with the infamous Genesis report, Irish football was an easy target,
Starved of on-the-field success, it has remained so ever since.
Steve Staunton may have been out of his depth but an outstanding servant to the game in this country deserved more than to be photoshopped as Kermit the Frog under the headline ‘Muppet’.
Irish tabloid journalism had take another giant step towards emulating its British counterparts, (remember the Graham Taylor turnip?). Only this week, the British Sun depicted Fabio Capello with donkey’s ears below the banner ‘Jackass.’ Charming.
No doubt the work-experience recruit who was dispatched to the Irish team hotel in Malahide dressed as Miss Piggy to garner a quote from Stan, considers it a career defining moment.
Giovanni Trapattoini will lead his side out against Armenia to embark on what may well be his last job in football, though he has the aura of a man who will never give up the game.
In two year’s time, success will be gauged on whether Ireland takes its place among Europe’s top nations in Poland and Ukraine.
It may be a dirty, unforgiving, and hostile campaign ahead, and that’s regardless of what awaits on the football pitch.
Trapattoni’s arrival has not quite shaken off the air of under-achievement surrounding the national side. His style of football has been criticised with the great sages of the RTE panel wavering in their opinion of the Italian after originally championing his appointment.
Throughout the World Cup 2010 odyssey, the Montrose mob were repeatedly accused of being out of touch with the opinion of the viewer, as the team began to win over the hearts of the disaffected. The play-off game against France finally brought the national team back into the bosom of Irish public adoration.
Written off by everybody, including a football media seemingly revelling in their misfortunes and inability to raise the interest of the nation, the Boys In Green went to Paris and did what no one said they could do; they beat France.
Yet the renowned Tom Humphries’ wrote:
We’re not going to South Africa and as such we won’t have to suffer the sight of our botoxed, ruined selves in the mirror
“SO, LISTEN. We ain’t going to South Africa. All through the qualifier series we rode our luck like hobos on a freight train to the sun. Giovanni’s side got tighter and more organised and we all came to believe in miracles. And then the ball plinked into the Irish net on Saturday night from a deflection off Sean St Ledger’s derriere. Ah well”
Humphries wrote this after the first leg. Half-time.
The cynics will say he was right but his attitude was all wrong. The statistics will say Ireland lost the game, but sport is not about numbers. That’s for accountants.
Trapattoni now leads a squad that commands greater attention.
The perfomance in extra-time, regardless of the infamous Hand of Gaul, stirred the passion of the Irish people once more. The fighting spirit, so derided by football journalists and mouth-pieces as a meaningless platitude, but the ultimate accolade when praising our GAA and rugby stars, has always been what inspires followers of Irish sport.
An ageing squad and a lack of ambition could make life very difficult for Ireland, wrote Dion Fanning this week, setting his stall out for the tone he will adopt this year.
A minor health scare had the Irish Indepdent writing Trapattoni’s obituary.
“Even if there is absolute confidence that the problem will be sorted, it’s a worrying state of affairs for his employers. There is always an element of risk associated with appointing a senior citizen”
The same newspaper cannot get over its apparent hard-on for the never-ending Stephen Ireland saga.
Ireland hints at return
“THE door remains open for Stephen Ireland’s return to international football, but the Aston Villa new boy failed to give the impression that he fancies a fresh start with his country as the topic sprung back onto the agenda yesterday.”
So basically, he didnt hint at a return at all.
Two days later, the headline read;
Ireland’s refusal to answer call won’t trouble Trap’s sleep
Remember this is a story that had Trapattoni rolling his eyeballs at the very mention of the player’s name at press conferences and Liam Brady having to step in and for all the world ask, “are you still going on about Stephen Ireland?
Eamon Dunphy in his anyalysis of his British counterparts recently suggested that in Ireland, the fans are treated with respect because they are knowledgable and intelligent.
It would be nice if we saw some more of that line of thought this time around.
“I’m embarrassed by the fact that this time last year I thought the long-term future of the Irish team was bound up with the whim of Irish sport’s most talented toddler.
Good luck at Villa, Stephen. Get back to us when you grow up.”
Let’s hope, along with our players, some others also mature on the road ahead.
If objectivity means nothing, then we should be all on the same team, right?
First posted, Sept 2010