Hunt may lose out in Cyprus selection


WHILE SOME of his recent predecessors have gone to considerable lengths in similar circumstances to keep their intentions under wraps, Giovanni Trapattoni has tended since his arrival a year and half ago to flag each team selection from the opening training session of the build-up to a game.

If yesterday’s run-out in Malahide maintains the pattern then Stephen Hunt is set to lose out on the wings this Saturday with Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady having occupied the wide positions in the end-of-session knock-about “probables”. All may not be lost for the Hull City midfielder, though, who is bound to have taken at least some encouragement from Shay Given lining out here as a centre half.

Given made his outfield appearance alongside John O’Shea as Richard Dunne spent the day in Birmingham, apparently trying to sort out the severance package aspect of his move away from Manchester City. Sean St Ledger was recuperating from an injury picked up in a collision with his Preston clubmate, goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, last Saturday.

Both should take part in training today, said the manager whose only other problem is an injury to Caleb Folan, the nature of which the manager attempted to convey to the media through the medium of richly entertaining – but utterly unintelligible – mime. The striker later revealed that the problem is his right ankle but that he, too, should be fine over the next day or too.

Asked whether he could provide some certainty in relation to his selection plans at this point in the week, Trapattoni declined, insisting: “I must them (the players) try a little bit longer before I tell them. Tomorrow they must read in the newspapers that they can all play.”

Definitely out for now and the foreseeable future, it is broadly acknowledged now, is Stephen Ireland whose comments at the weekend about international retirement being the best thing he’d ever done, pretty much confirmed that he will not be coming back any time soon.

For all his undoubted talent, the midfielder’s interview must have come as a relief to the manager who has bristled on occasion when pressed about his efforts to change the 23-year-old’s mind. Now, there was only a renewed sense of regret on the part of the Italian for the error the Corkman is making by passing up what might be a somewhat richer experience than hill running and martial arts sessions during the international breaks.

“It’s a pity,” said Trapattoni with a sigh. “I’m convinced that in many years, I don’t know how long, he might ask himself; ‘Why?’ because he’s still young and he won’t know until he’s an older man what’s he’s missing at the moment.”

Still, the Italian seemed just a little relieved when he then said the question of making a fresh approach to the City player wouldn’t arise now unless he extends his own deal as Republic of Ireland manager and gets to revisit the issue at some point in the more distant future, nobody seemed inclined to disagree.

“My door is never closed,” he added, “but the more you talk about it (in the meantime) the more complicated it can become.”

Ireland, he suggested, might react “like a hedgehog” if pushed any further on the matter.

When asked shortly afterwards about Cyprus, Trapattoni rather cheerfully hailed the fact that both Michael Constantinou, man of the match as well as scorer of two goals in the 5-2 defeat of three years ago, and Konstantinos Makridis, will be suspended this weekend.

His own team, he promised, would be a good deal more impressive than they had been when beaten decisively in Limerick last month, having pretty much all played regular first-team football in the weeks since.

Dunne’s proposed but still, as he spoke, unconfirmed move to Aston Villa was positive from this point of view, he said, as it would provide the Dubliner with continued opportunities to play.

Trapattoni, as he has done many times before, then noted that the club fortunes of some of his players have improved significantly since he started to select them on a regular basis but it was still a little odd when he seemed to suggest he sees it as part of his mission as Ireland team manager “to show that Irish players can play in English football”. Their ability to do that much, most of us reckoned, pretty much went without saying. What is urgently required this weekend, on the other hand, is a reminder that they can actually do so in Cyprus.