HE WAS out, then in. Now he’s out again. He’s just returned from injury but the reason for James McCarthy’s eventual withdrawal from tomorrow night’s Carling Nations Cup clash with Wales is as clear as mud.
It’s been claimed that he took a knock on his ankle performing heroics for Wigan last weekend. It’s also been reported by his club that the one-cap holder is ‘tired’; the second time that explanation has been used to excuse the midfielder.
Either way, James McCarthy will play no part in the game at Lansdowne Road, and he may just have kissed goodbye to any reckoning in the immediate future plans of Giovanni Trapattoni.
It’s wholly acceptable that a player who has just returned from serious injury should be spared the potential of a relapse in what is a glorified ‘cup’ game, but a friendly nonetheless. David Meyler’s example is an argument against rushing back.
However, James McCarthy put in a stellar performance for Wigan last Saturday and he will most likely feature again next weekend away to Liverpool. His club are right not to risk the 20-year-old but the player must also realise that he has potentially missed his chance to stake a claim for inclusion in the Irish side for the forthcoming qualifiers. He wouldn’t be the first footballer to insist on being released to join his national side; had he forced the issue.
Shay Given has questioned if perhaps he is a bit too young to show real hunger or throw his weight round and make demands.
Despite the fact that McCarthy has been in sensational form since his return to action, there is no chance whatsoever of Trapattoni gambling on an international novice against Macedonia. And that is a great pity.
The debutante against Brazil has been inadvertently thrown into a club-v-country debate and he may pay the price for Trapattoni’s selection stubborness.
Wigan withdrew McCarthy from the Irish training camp last summer citing ‘tiredness’ and the Italian manager appeared unimpressed at yesterday’s press conference.
“I am disappointed he is not here. We asked him in the summer and his manager said ‘Please excuse him but he is tired’. Twenty-one and tired . . . but that’s okay. I have respect for my colleague (Martinez).”
Two players who will start tomorrow are Ciaran Clark and Seamus Coleman.
They are two genuine beacons of hope for this Irish side.
The worry however, is that Irish supporters have grave concerns about Trapattoni’s willingness to blood these players in the crucial qualifiers ahead.
How else can one explain the additions of Glenn Whelan and Paul Green to the starting line-up for the meeting of Celtic neighbours at the Aviva Stadium?
Whelan is not playing at Stoke and Green is in and out of a poor Championship side.
Jon Walters starts up front with Kevin Doyle who scored against Man United last weekend. Robbie Keane and Leon Best’s injuries have depleted Ireland’s attacking options while the in-form Shane Long has to be content with a place on the bench.
Finally we get to see Clark and Coleman in action.
Clark has spoken of the pride his family will experience tomorrow night when they see their boy line out in the green jersey.
Coleman’s clan were shamefully denied the sight of the Premier League sensation taking to the turf against Norway last year. At least, the trip form Donegal will be worth it this time.
Trapattoni had initially sought to deploy the Everton star in the right-back position as opposed to right-wing because, inexplicably, the boss didn’t wish to pit him against Wales’ wizard Gareth Bale.In God’s name, why?
Bale has withdrawn from Gary Speed’s selection so Trap is spared the apparent mauling that awaited Ireland’s newest prodigy.
So despite his stunning displays in England’s top flight, it would appear evident that Coleman has as much chance of being involved in next month’s qualifier with Macedonia as James McCarthy.
This is the real reason why tomorrow’s game will seem a worthless exercise.
The fact that the encounter forms part of the new Nations Cup should actually add a welcome competitive element that could raise it above the calibre of other friendlies taking place around Europe.
Gary Speed’s squad has seen a raft of drop-outs including Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey. The new Wales boss has already conceded defeat in his bid to lead the prinicpality to Euro qualification but this is his opportunity to put a stamp on the side.
Still, despite Giovanni Trapattoni’s initial selection, he has managed to end up with a strong side, bolstered by the late addition of Keith Fahey.
Ireland should have designs on claiming the Carling Nation’s Cup outright.
Sadly, even if Ciaran Clark and Seamus Coleman produce fireworks at Lansdowne Road, will it convince Trapattoni to set them off in the games that matter, in place of duds like Green and Whelan?
Let’s hope they spark a change in the Irish management’s thinking by firing on all cylinders tonight.