After Saturday night’s plucky if slightly lucky 1-1 moral victory in Bulgaria, Ireland remain on course for qualification for South Africa (where the Lions are currently playing provincial ‘cubs’ in half-empty dens). 

And, it seems, the closer we get the greater the effort to appease a player who, much unlike his clubmate Richard Dunne, has done nothing whatsoever so far to get us to the 2010 World Cup finals. 

Giovanni Trapattoni is now seeking Mark Hughes’s help in persuading Stephen Ireland to please come out and play. Quite how the Man City midfielder’s return to international football at this stage would affect morale within what appears to be a very tight squad is a pertinent question.

And if he was to rejoin the Republic at the umpteenth time of asking (and remember, it was he who made up the cock and bull stories, no-one else) one would be inclined to wonder if it might have anything to do with the fact that the ink is now dry on his fat new Eastlands contract.