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Foul Play: The Trap Door Beckons
The road to Rio starts here, as we hope and pray that Ireland can exorcise the demons of Gdansk. Meanwhile, Kilkenny face off against Galway in an All-Ireland hurling final to salivate over...
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 10 Sep 2012
Kazakhstan, here we come. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were drowning our sorrows in Gdansk and Poznan, wondering whether it had all been worth it, cheerfully singing verse after verse of ‘We’re the Worst Team In the World’ and hoping against hope that Trap might do the decent thing and pass on the torch to somebody a little less set in their ways.
Or at least that, having inspected the damage on DVD re-runs of the three matches, he’d accept the basic need to fundamentally alter an approach which led us into the flames of Hell in front of an audience of millions. But here we are, three months on, and the old man clearly isn’t going anywhere, unless results force his hand. A humiliating defeat in Kazakhstan against the world’s 145th-ranked team might suffice to persuade the FAI that an immediate change of manager has become a matter of urgent public interest, but obviously, the last thing we want is the nightmare scenario of a stillborn World Cup qualifying campaign, with the merciless Germans lying in wait next month. There is an inescapable air of crisis surrounding the team, with the strong suspicion that the players have basically lost faith in the gaffer’s antiquated approach seemingly confirmed by a recent rash of withdrawals.
It may well be that we had completely deluded ourselves about the true level of the talent available to Trapattoni, that a squad of Championship-standard journeymen bolstered by four or five fading stars a good few years past their best was never really likely to cause Croatia, Spain and Italy too many problems. But the extent of the meltdown was still horrifying and shocking. Teams such as the Greeks and Czechs managed to gatecrash the quarter-finals with squads realistically no better than our own, which surely gives the lie to suggestions that damage-limitation ought to have been our main objective.
Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, but there’s also little to be gained by looking back. Though the Kazakh expedition is undoubtedly a nightmare assignment in geographical terms, the opposition’s atrocious track record speaks for itself, and for all the justifiable gnashing of teeth about the current regime, it must be pointed out that Trap’s spartan approach has generally done an adequate job of hoovering up points in our assignments away from home against the pygmy nations of international football. Having won 4-0 in Estonia ten months ago, there is surely no compelling reason why we can’t put our hosts to the sword on Friday, even shorn of the talents of Darron Gibson. Shay Given has sailed off into that good night, after fifteen years of superhuman brilliance between the sticks were unfortunately postscripted by 270 minutes of embarrassing black comedy this summer. Kieron Westwood now takes over the gloves: he looked perfectly capable in the recent Belgrade friendly, is a fine goalkeeper, and the transition shouldn’t cause Ireland fans any undue concern.