The University Observer‘s sports editor, Killian Woods, is trailing the Ireland squad exclusively for universityobserver.ie in advance of next week’s crunch ties with Italy and Montenegro…
Fielding questions to the media on a cold Wednesday midday, Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady had a more optimistic outlook on the fitness of Damien Duff for next weeks penultimate World Cup qualifying game against Montenegro than that of Fulham’s website.
“Damien is going to be staying at Fulham for another couple of days” said Brady. Though not remarking on the statement from Fulham, Brady was very affirmative that Ireland hold the authority in this situation and that “if we want him over, we will get him over and maybe we will make a decision on Friday.”
These comments come after the statement on Fulham’s website yesterday affirming that “the winger will remain at Fulham’s Training Ground during the international break”.
Though, there is some optimism for Duff to participate in Ireland’s final group game against Montenegro. Caleb Folan, Steven Reid and Darron Gibson are certain to not play any further part in Ireland’s final World Cup games as they stay with their respective clubs to recover from existing injuries.
Ireland’s injury problems also took a further hit today with notable absence of centre back Richard Dunne from the training session at Gannon Park, Malahide. “Richard has got a bruised ankle, and that’s why he hasn’t trained this morning, but we fully expect him to be fit for the weekend”. Dunne’s likely centre-back partner, Sean St Ledger also has a slight injury, however, his dead leg is only a minor problem which is unlikely to keep him out of any further training sessions.
These comments by Brady are certain to reassure Irish supporters ahead of the upcoming crunch fixtures. Though, when asked about his long-term future as part of Trapattoni’s coaching team, Brady answered not so reassuringly and with some uncertainty, “I’m not sure if I’ll continue on with Ireland, we’ll assess the whole situation at the end of the current qualifying campaign.” Speculation has mounted that Brady will return to his scouting post at Arsenal at the end of the current campaign.
Even if there uncertainty about his future, Brady was convinced that Trapattoni being offered a new deal is only positive. He commended the FAI for their choice to sign-up Trapattoni for another two years claiming, “I think it’s great that they have signed him up again. He is a top class manager and has been the main reason that Irish football is back on track.”
Talking of the upcoming match in Croke Park against Italy, Brady was very definite and concise in his views on the possible outcomes. After playing out seven years of his career in Italy, Brady knows the trademark features of Italian football and jokingly spoke of the “Italians always playing for a draw”.
To qualify for the World Cup play-off rounds, Ireland need to acquire two points from their two remaining games. However, if there is to be a chance of Ireland leapfrogging Italy into the automatic spot, wins on Saturday and Wednesday are a must, whilst hoping for Italy to only gain one point from their final game against Cyprus.
Brady is happy with the current situation the Irish squad is in. Though; there was an undertone of disappointment in his voice regarding the performances of Georgia and Bulgaria against Italy in the previous match days.
“We’ve always wanted to top the group. Unfortunately, Italy have carried on winning. We had hoped that the Georgians might do something and then the Bulgarians going to Italy might do something but it wasn’t to be so we’ve got to get six out of six and then hope that Cyprus get something but that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Today’s morning training session ended with a team run which saw the remnants of a starting side for Saturday match line up against the rest of the squad. In this experimental side, Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence lined up on the left and right wings respectively with Keith Andrews and Glen Whelan in midfield. Kevin Doyle partnered captain Robbie Keane up front, while Paul McShane sat in for the absent Dunne.