By Ciaran O Raghallaigh
Winston Churchill once described negotiating with Irish Taoiseach Eamon de Valera as “trying to pick up mercury with a fork”.
Unimpressed, De Valera replied, “Why doesn’t he try using a spoon?” Neither of them had obviously ever worked with a team managed by Giovanni Trapattoni.
Bring all the cutlery you have lads.
Meanwhile, Robbie Keane brought a little clarity to another Trapattoni-inspired bout of confusion.
Earlier in the week, the internet almost collapsed under the weight of speculation that Ireland were set to change their formation.
This news was greeted with such acclaim, it was as if Trapattoni was redesigning the double helix of DNA.
But, speaking to the press today in Gdynia, Keane smiled when asked if he knew anything of the cunning plan.
“He has not really spoken about it,” he said. “He’s had the same system since he came in, so if anything changes it would be a minor thing.
“As players you’re always working hard, but for myself in this game (against Croatia), I might have to drop deeper on to the (opposition) holding midfielder and not let him dictate the game.
“It’s more things like that, than say a formation change. We’re not going to just go to a 4-3-3 when we haven’t done it for a long time.”
So, there you have it. Robbie tells it like it is – a spoon picking up mercury.
Luka Modric watch out – Robbie has your number.
Today, day three of the Ireland training camp in northern Poland, brought a little conversation, a little more confusion.
Shay Given took a small part in training after enjoying a day off yesterday, along with the rest of the team. John O’Shea took full part as did Glenn Whelan.
So, we’re all good, right? Well, not so quick.
During a briefing yesterday with goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly, it was explained that Given will be ‘managed’ through the tournament – basically, his fitness will be assessed each morning, with a view to having him do as little as is possible to keep him sharp for each match.
No worries there so.
Kelly also claimed that Given was told he would play only a half of Monday’s friendly with Hungary, but it appears sub keeper Keiren Westwood wasn’t aware.
A journalist in the Irish press corps suggested Westwood wasn’t told he would be playing 45 minutes on Monday night, and the fact Westwood wasn’t ready at half time to play proved his point.
‘You’ll have to ask Keiren why he wasn’t ready,” was Kelly’s reply. Curious.
Ireland’s assistant manager Marco Tardelli today claimed Given is 100% fit, but others seem to think he remains doubtful for Sunday. Curiouser.
There is some chance the goalkeeper will talk to the press tomorrow, but this is yet to be confirmed.