/ Euro 2012

The Inside Track, with Tony O'Donoghue.

Updated: Friday, 01 Jun 2012 12:49 | Comments

Tony O'Donoghue gives The Inside Track from the Republic of Ireland training camp in Montecatini
Tony O'Donoghue gives The Inside Track from the Republic of Ireland training camp in Montecatini

Earthquakes, bribery and corruption, heartache and despair; that’s just the first few days of a Republic of Ireland Italian training camp.

What can Poland and Ukraine possibly hold in store for us to match this?

The last time Ireland had a pre-tournament training camp was ten years ago in Saipan and we all know what happened there.

This time around there’s no problem with the pitch and all the gear has arrived.

But a player is going home ahead of the tournament.

Kevin Foley is the unfortunate one to miss out following a change of heart from the manager.

We met Foley in the local park yesterday afternoon.

The Daily Mail, The Times and The Inside Track were out for a jog (mad dogs and Englishmen) and who did we chance upon but Foley, who cut a forlorn figure sitting on a bench alone on the phone and clearly in distress.

Twenty minutes later Foley was still in the same spot and we stopped and had a chat, commiserating with him on his shock omission from the list of 23 names submitted to UEFA ahead of the noon deadline.

Because of the continuing injury concerns surrounding defenders John O’Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O’Dea and Richard Dunne, Giovanni Trapattoni has decided that Paul McShane offers more versatility in the backline.

He can play him as a ‘stopper’, as he puts it, in the centre of Ireland’s defence or as a right full back.

An ashen-faced Foley was visibly shocked at what he had just been told. He said the staff and the players could hardly believe it.

"An ashen-faced Foley was visibly shocked at what he had just been told. He said the staff and the players could hardly believe it."

Later that evening he called it “a betrayal”.

Foley had been worried about a hamstring strain but had recovered and insisted that he was fully fit. He went on to prove that later in the evening in the match against a local Tuscan selection. It was hard not to feel sorry for the 27-year-old whose family, like Roy Keane’s in 2002, had booked their trip to the finals.

Foley has been told to remain on standby but psychologically it’s hard for him to get his head around being dropped on the eve of the biggest moment of his professional career.

Maybe Trapattoni would have been better off not naming the definitive squad on the 7 May and instead holding his cards closer to his chest.

For Foley to believe he was going to Poland and for that honour to be taken away from him is simply cruel.

It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the Ireland camp.

Kevin Foley leaves the field in Tuscany.

Foley was one of four Wolverhampton Wanderers players and Stephen Ward, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt must be especially gutted for their teammate.

Paul McShane, to his credit, was hardly jumping around with joy at his elevation to the full squad. The Wicklow man will now wear the number 13 shirt at the Championships and may yet have a significant role to play in the drama that’s about to unfold.

McShane though was feeling bad for the player he often rooms with on Ireland away trips knowing that Foley’s sad loss is his gain.

People are quick to criticize McShane and yet at a relatively young age he has been a great servant to his country.

"People are quick to criticize McShane and yet at a relatively young age he has been a great servant to his country."

Don’t forget he captained the Republic of Ireland a year ago in the victory over Italy in Liege and he has, throughout his career, been a player that shows great leadership qualities.

He’s certainly not lacking in character and commitment.

The training match otherwise was perfect for Ireland.

Five goals - two from captain Robbie Keane in 45 minutes and one each from Simon Cox, Shane Long and Jon Walters - meant all the strikers on the pitch got on the scoresheet, for Long his second in two games.

Shane Long was on target for Ireland again

No matter the opposition all strikers love to score and with no further injuries the exercise in the picturesque foothills of the Tuscan mountains was worthwhile.

A walk around the beautiful town of Montecatini and some Spa treatments for the players on their day off gave them a chance to reflect on the tragedy that has struck again near this region of northern Italy.

Before the earthquake came the shock of the Italian camp just 40km away being raided in the early hours of the morning as part of the match-fixing investigation.

It would be hard to imagine that seismic event not having an impact on The Azzuri in the European Championships.

By the time we get to play them in the final game of the group will they have anything left to play for? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Before the intensity is resumed ahead of the final ‘proper’ international against Hungary in Budapest, the spirit can be restored and the wounds can be healed.

But be warned: If Shay Given or John O’Shea in particular don’t play some part next Monday then the chances are that Keith Fahey and Kevin Foley won’t be the only ones packing their bags early.

Perish the thought.

Tony O'Donoghue is Soccer Correspondent for RTÉ

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use
Live!
Racing from Fairyhou
Powered by NewsWhip