Ball kicked back in McCarthy's court


INTERNATIONAL SOCCER:After a good win over Wales on Tuesday, Emmet Malonegets the reaction of manager Giovanni Trapattoni

JAMES McCARTHY will be given another chance to convince Giovanni Trapattoni of his desire to play for the Republic of Ireland next month with the Italian committing yesterday to selecting the Wigan midfielder in his squad for the games against Macedonia and Uruguay. “After that,” the manager said pointedly, “it is up to him to decide.”

Trapattoni said yesterday if the highly talented 20-year-old continues to play for his club over the next weeks and appears to be fit he will include him in his next squad although, he emphasised, there is nothing to suggest he will feature in either game.

Still, it would put matters to bed if the midfielder were to make even the most fleeting of appearances in the European Championship qualifier, something that would end the speculation regarding the possibility of him playing for his native Scotland.

Trapattoni has done little to disguise his scepticism regarding McCarthy’s dedication to the Irish cause over the past week and when he was asked yesterday whether the midfielder was still in his plans, Marco Tardelli chipped in from the back of the room: “We called him two times; he was in our plans.”

When pressed about the subject Trapattoni has repeatedly suggested he had been told by the Wigan manager Roberto Martinez that McCarthy had not been prevented from travelling either by him or the club. Instead, the Spaniard is said to have confided the player preferred to stay at the club off his own bat in order to work on his fitness before some crucial relegation battles.

Even if true, it’s a strange thing for Martinez to do given the difficulty it has caused McCarthy with the Ireland manager; most club managers in his position would have been only too happy to declare a fully-fit player injured so as to protect him from the risk of injury. Those close to McCarthy, however, actually insist the player is genuine in his claim he has an ankle injury, and for which he twice received treatment on the pitch during last weekend’s win over Blackburn Rovers.

Whatever the current situation, though, McCarthy’s future under Trapattoni will be fairly bleak if he appears to be capable of travelling to Dublin next month to join up with the squad but doesn’t make the journey.

Trapattoni was asked if he would go and see the player in action between now and then but said he doesn’t need to, that Tardelli has seen him in action four times this season and that the pair are agreed regarding his quality and potential value to the Irish set-up.

All that matters now with regard to the call-up, it seems, is his fitness. “If he plays 90 minutes (for Wigan) then we will bring him. Then it is his decision,” Trapattoni confirmed.

The manager anticipates both Ciarán Clark and Kevin Kilbane being involved in the panel for the Macedonia game. The Aston Villa defender was hardly tested by the Welsh on Tuesday night, but still came through the game with his reputation enhanced and might be seen as a ready replacement for the Huddersfield Town player.

“Clark showed great personality, he played like a senior,” said the Italian, “but we couldn’t forget a player like Kilbane who is not just another option, he can play.

“Qualification games are qualification games and I’m not going to change things around drastically, that’s for sure.”

The younger man certainly seems to have played his way into serious contention, however, not least because of the scarcity of serious alternatives in the left back position.

Séamus Coleman looks more of an outside bet to feature, with the manager making it clear he has strong, experienced options in the likes of Aiden McGeady, Liam Lawrence and Stephen Hunt on the right side of midfield.

Trapattoni praised Seán St Ledger for the way he had performed for Ireland at a time when both he and his club, Preston North End, have been struggling in the Championship.

“Sometimes a great striker scores no goals for a poor team because he is the only striker and the team is playing badly,” he said.

“It’s the same with St Ledger. He’s not Jesus Christ.”

Ideally, of course, the manager would like to see St Ledger plucked from the wrong end of the Championship by a decent Premier League outfit but not as much, it seemed yesterday, as he would still like to see Manchester United’s Darron Gibson settle for less illustrious employers in return for the opportunity to play more first-team football.

“He doesn’t have to go to a little club,” he said, “just to one where he plays regularly,” he said. “But maybe after his goal here he will get more opportunities to play.”

FAI clear up alcohol questions

THE FAI has confirmed that the decision not to sell alcohol in the general admission areas of the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night had nothing to do with any potential clash with regard to commercial deals, writes Emmet Malone.

Diageo products, including Carlsberg, are on sale at the stadium for rugby matches, while Carling, a Molson Coors brand, is sponsoring this Nations Cup tournament. A spokesman for the FAI, however, said that beer is never sold in the general area of the stadium at football matches and that this is in line with Uefa regulations.

Alcohol is allowed to be served in the premium level and corporate box areas of the venue.