Wily Trapattoni still in situ after eventful roller-coaster ride ends in disappointment
The Republic’s limitations were cruelly exposed at the European Championship finals in Poland, writes EMMET MALONE
It would be easy to make the mistake of assuming that the management, players and supporters were the groups most disappointed by the way this summer’s European Championships turned out for the Irish. Spare a thought for the media, though, because the press corps had waited 10 years for a follow up to Mick McCarthy’s endlessly eventful World Cup campaign and trust me, Sopot was no Saipan.
While Roy Keane’s, ahem, departure from the squad a decade ago famously made front page news in India, our big pre-tournament story this time involved one defender who wasn’t going to play being replaced in the squad at the last minute by another defender who wasn’t going to play.
No disrespect to either Kevin Foley or Paul McShane, both of whom are, for the record, really good lads, but it was not the sort of stuff that was going to halt the print media’s seemingly inexorable slide for even one day.
By the time the “news” broke we were all in Montecatini where what was (there at least) a very minor earthquake managed to generate some implausibly large headlines back in Ireland and the tail-end of a public reception for Trapattoni some pretty big laughs when the 73 year-old’s departure obstructed runners in a local road race.
The tournament itself was, of course, a disaster (in sporting terms) although not, perhaps, nearly such a surprising one as some people were inclined to make out.
In any case, having decided in many cases to give the kids’ college fund to a German camper van rental firm, those fans who travelled remained defiantly determined to enjoy the experience, singing and drinking (though not necessarily in that order) to the bitter end.
Opinion regarding their attitude was divided with John Delaney venturing out late at night in Poland to tell quite a few in person that they were “f**king great” while away in an ITV studio somewhere Roy Keane was clearly less impressed.
The aftermath was eventful. At his final press conference in Poznan, the manager’s observation that he would “humiliate” some of his players in the event that he was to speak frankly about them, struck many of those present as crossing a line and the Italian showed a similar lack of diplomacy a few weeks later when discussing what he felt were the mixed messages sent by Shane Long regarding his fitness before and after the Serbia game.