James McClean and John O'Shea both saw action for Ireland in the drubbing against Spain last night
Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign rumbled on as they faced up to a mountainous challenge in the shape of reigning World and European champions, Spain. Predictably, they were outclassed from the very first minute to the last in what proved to be an arduous and torturous evening in Gdansk.
Although there is one game remaining for Trapattoni's men, this defeat signals the end of Ireland's interest in the competition.
Goals from David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and a ruthlessly clinical brace from Fernando Torres (seriously, no need to adjust your monitors) condemned the Irish to a comprehensive defeat in a game that more resembled a training exercise than a sporting contest.
Spain's technical and territorial domination surprised no one, and the same can be said of the 4-0 scoreline. Realistically it was always going to be tough for a nation of just 4 million people that doesn't even have it's own fully professional league to make an impact in this tournament, especially having been drawn against some real quality opposition. So there is no shame at all in heading home at the first hurdle.
What is more difficult to accept, however, is the manner in which they have been sent home. Struggling to compete against obviously stronger sides is part and parcel of sport. It happens. But it is difficult to identify any discernible desire in the Irish camp to even try and compete. Going through the motions, just happy to be there at all, debilitating inferiority complex, or just plain cowardice... it doesn't actually matter. Whatever the reasons behind it, the responsibility lies with Giovanni Trapattoni.
A Sunderland fan having a pop at the Ireland manager can leave himself open to accusations of James McClean inspired bias, I fully accept that. But even if we take Trapattoni's pretty shoddy treatment of McClean out of the equation, it is difficult to justify the Italian's bizarre use of a squad that saw players like Sean St Ledger, Simon Cox, and Keith Andrews strung down the spine of the team whilst pretty well established Premier League players like Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Darron Gibson, and Stephen Kelly sit on the substitutes bench.
But what of the actual important issue? What about the Sunderland AFC interest in this game? Well John O'Shea, his country's best defender by quite some distance, found himself once again shunted out to right back. I can only assume here that Trapattoni wanted to give him plenty of time to be able to pick himself up from the floor having falling about laughing at the Stephen Ward comedy show on the other side of the pitch. He won't have been happy with his performance or evening's work, but you'd be disappointed in him if he was.
The main news from a Sunderland point of view though was that James McClean got onto the pitch for a 15 minute run-out to win his first ever competitive international cap. According to Trapattoni, McClean was 'psychologically unprepared' to face the mighty Croatians and in need of a nice 'quiet opportunity' to make his competitive debut for Ireland, and apparently facing an onslaught from the world champions with Stephen Ward as your back-up qualifies.
Meanwhile, reserve stopper Kieren Westwood didn't feature once again, but all that may be about to change after Shay Given once again endured a torrid time between the sticks. At 36 years of age, Given just seems to have lost that split-second of quickness, and may decide it is time to withdraw from the international arena to prolong his club career. The Villa keeper commented after the game that it may now be time to make way for the next generation, and that would obviously open the door for Westwood to step into the breach between the sticks.
Ireland's exit does at least provide Trapattoni the opportunity to experiment a little in the final game against Italy and release the shackles somewhat. Could that mean a starting berth for James McClean? You would think so, but remember this is Trapattoni we are talking about and Trapattoni and logic go together like sex and sandpaper.
Anyway, all in all a pretty savage beating for the Irish out in Poland. A murder on the Gdansk floor, you might say... (yes, I did it - and I am not even sorry).