Friday, 14 August 2009

Results business… most of the time

Hey folks,

Being roughed up by a bunch of uncouth louts in the middle of Limerick may be a common occurrence for normal folk (at this point ODF stands back and waits for accusations of lazy stereotyping following… well, lazy stereotyping) but the Irish team could hardly have expected the battering they got alongside the Shannon on Wednesday evening.

Press reaction has been interesting, the softly-softly approach to the management of Giovanni Trapattoni has prevailed in most quarters while Eamonn Dunphy on the other hand got his knickers in a twist earlier than usual this season by saying we have no chance of doing anything meaningful under Trapattoni’s guidance. Dunphy is, as per usual, over-reacting. We are well on the way to World Cup qualification, and for a nation that has qualified for four major tournaments in 70-odd years that represents achievement.

A three-nil defeat can never be seen as a positive but in the context of what the former Juve and Bayern manager is trying to do with the side he will have gone home reasonably content with what he gained from his few days with the squad.

For one thing, if the point of a friendly is to learn something about your side then Trapattoni has certainly done that. Aiden McGeady looked confident once more, while Stephen Hunt was bursting with energy as always when he came on, though this time it was a little more controlled than the rambling idiot role he played against Bulgaria last time out (his free kick to set up Richard Dunne’s goal the exception). Both would do well against Cyprus but, bizarrely despite the above descriptions, I hope Trapattoni goes for Hunt.

The logic? Well, the big downfall of the Irish in Cyprus on the last two occasions we went into the ramshackle Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, is the obvious lack of energy in the performance. Okay, Stan Staunton’s even more ramshackle management style also had something to do with the second poor performance, but I’d back Hunt’s energy against the Cypriot defence, with McGeady coming on for him or Duff later on in the game to pick holes in a tired back four.

Elsewhere, Kevin Kilbane can’t have failed to notice that both Tim Cahill’s goals involved gaping holes for the Irish at the left back position. Damien Delaney’s name was mentioned heavily by Trapattoni during dealings with the press during the week and perhaps he may get a chance next time out. In reality, while it’s doubtful that Trapattoni will drop the Hull player for such a big game at least Kilbane is on high alert to improve his concentration. Delaney too will be pushing hard for a call up over the next few weeks just in case. Healthy competition then that will hopefully have a good knock on effect.

Also culpable for Cahill’s first goal was Darron Gibson’s lack of tracking the Everton man’s run from midfield though far better midfielders have fallen for that trick. Trapattoni can feel safe picking Keith Andrews now as most will agree that while he lacks the firepower or passing range of Gibson he has the discipline that may be needed on a hard night in Cyprus. Elsewhere, Sean St Ledger looked steady enough and will most likely keep his place while Kevin Doyle should hopefully be up and running come three weeks time.

Overall, I’m leaning towards the softly-softly, ‘let’s back Trap’ approach for now as he’s got Ireland results when it matters. He knows his team, his team trusts him and when it matters they’ve gotten results (failing to close out the game against Bulgaria at Croker apart). A team on the verge of an achievement that will, for several of them, be the peak of their career, I’d back them to do the business when Group 8 resumes next month.

The next round of games sees that visit to Cyprus along with Italy playing away in Georgia before welcoming Bulgaria to Turin. By the time those games finish up I doubt anyone will remember much about last Wednesday except for a decent PR exercise for the team and yet more battering for the FAI’s nonsensical ticket prices. The latter should be the target for Dunphy’s vitriol, not a manger doing a very decent job thus far.

Cheers, JJ

PS:Will have a predictions blog up later for the weekend by the by.

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