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Don't write off the Irish

The luck of the Irish deserted the country in the World Cup play-off draw on Monday so no wonder Giovanni Trapattoni was kicking up such a stink about the late decision to seed the big nations.

No wonder the Italian boss of the Irish team opted to stay home in Italy rather than attend the draw in Zurich. He knew it has been structured by FIFA to ensure the big guns participate in the finals.

There is nothing like moving the goalposts, and opting for seedings at the very last minute when some of the world's top nations are in the play-offs.

It should guarantee the world's number one player will be there - Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team - and it is geared up for France to join them.

The Republic have drawn the 1998 world champions France and the star-studded side will have the advantage of playing the second leg on home soil. On the surface it doesn't look good for the Irish, and it would be a brave man who would tip them to reach South Africa.

So here goes... The Republic to make it over the two legs!

It would be sad if Thierry Henry fails to make his World Cup farewell, and the French possess some fabulous players such as Frank Ribery, who will be heading to Stamford Bridge should the West London club manage to lift their transfer window ban on appeal.

But the World Cup has missed the Irish. They have provided some memorable moments in the past; some drama, penalties and touchline rows over water bottles.

Big Jack Charlton and David O'Leary have become World Cup heroes in the past, but it has been too long since the Irish graced the finals.

Remember Italia 90, when O'Leary's penalty against Romania sent the Republic into the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Ray Houghton's lobbed winner against Italy at the Giants Stadium, New York in 1994 and in 2002, when Robbie Keane's late equaliser against Germany sent Mick McCarthy into that famous Irish jig on the touchline in Kashima.

Those days seemed long gone when the Republic failed dismally to reach the final stages of Euro 2008, and Steve Staunton paid for that failure with his job as manager of the national team.

Their fans will be welcome, but their team have to get there first and that's a tall order. But the French will need to beware the 'Trap' set by that old wily campaigner Trapattoni. He masterminded outrageously surprising results against Italy and has instilled the winning mentality that so epitomises the new England team under Fabio Capello.

So, wouldn't it be something if England played the Republic in the World Cup, with both sides managed by Italians!

Well, so much for fantasy football, it's going to take some doing for the Irish to turn it into reality. But don't write them off. I am not.


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