It’s time to take Martin O’Neill to task on a few things

Our football writer feels that Ireland’s game is stuck back in the dark ages and he reckons there’s only one person to blame for that…

In what has transformed into an island of change in recent times, the powers that be have insisted that things stay the same on the football front and there’s a real chance that Martin O’Neill disenchants an entire republic with its most-loved pastime.

It appears that the Derry native’s job spec includes completely sitting out sessions and resorting to old school motivational tactics to try and claw big results out, because he hasn’t got the slightest clue what he’s trying to do on the training pitch.

If you don’t agree, you haven’t watched Ireland enough. Movement off the ball is limited; even when Shane Long manages to outmuscle an opponent, he has absolutely no idea what to do. Because the side haven’t been coached accordingly.

Defensive shape is clearly his blueprint and you can get to an elite level of defensive solidarity through motivation and focus. But this simply isn’t enough.

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What once was a proud footballing population are now little more than a watchful accessory to murdering a sport.

There are times to go long, but in a friendly against France where you have absolutely nothing to lose by trying to instil a belief that your team can pass the ball, the 66-year-old still opted to play in a similar fashion to how possible Group C whipping boys Peru will do when they face off against Deschamps’ men next month.

Martin O’Neill is quick to point out the things he’s accomplished in the past whenever he’s questioned, but his legacy will probably see him dubbed the only man who ever truly believed he could get a point from a friendly.

Bleeding in young players is well and good, but they’re usually academy products from systems that encourage players on the ball.

While the majority of the French players have come back from even richer footballing upbringings, because of O’Neill’s approach, we’ll never truly know how we stack up against them.

High Performance Director Ruud Dokter was brought in to fine-tune an approach from underage right through to senior.

His input is to encourage technical play, which then is of no use at the highest level. To put it another way – if you can control a ball coming at your chest cross-field from 70 yards, it’s an incredible asset.

But unless you’re a lone striker who has to hold that ball up and then run 20 yards backwards to link up play, you’re forgotten.

With James McClean looking more and more likely to jump ship to Stoke City, he must counting his blessings that O’Neill wasn’t the one to sign him for the Potters. It’s interesting that so many consider international football a break from the tribulations of club football, but it must be the opposite for this squad.

It’s hard to envisage a player coming from an elite performance centre of a Premier League club to running straight into sessions where players can’t pass the ball shorter than 40 yards downfield.

Declan Rice’s career is going to be completely hijacked by a man who believes that everyone should play the way they did when he was first introduced to the world back in 1952.

He’d nearly be better off choosing the complete car crash that is the English national side than sitting through an extended O’Neill tenure. At least with The Three Lions you can express your ability before you embarrass yourself.

The thing about O’Neill’s tenure is that it’s moved on from being an experiment to being a hardcoded identity now and will affect future players’ decisions. While Rice’s loyalty to the country is well-publicised, there’s nothing whatsoever to entice a player who can play for a few different nations to choose the Republic of Ireland.

The long association the country has with effort is in the process of being taken over by a hoofball stereotype and that’s damaging in many ways.

Even if we strip back what went on last night to a basic level, we’ll see how bizarre the approach is.

So, if you launch the ball to a striker, you can sometimes link up play with runners off him, but – in Shane Long’s case, he was forty yards away from the nearest Ireland player for the majority. It makes absolutely no sense.

Even if you wanted to time waste to reorganise your backline, you’d launch it towards a vacated area of the playing surface.

If a defender makes one sideways pass, the entire opposition have to adjust their positions, thus wasting energy. The nonsensical game plan that’s dressed-up blood and thunder patriotism just doesn’t cut it.

It might do if you’re expecting to be outclassed in a competitive game. But not here. Not against France in friendly.

I think it’s time that O’Neill admits he knows absolutely no other way and that his time as a manager is up, because the alternative explanation is that he doesn’t believe his side are capable of producing any better and that’s an even more embarrassing concession.

The cricket is back in Malahide soon. We’re not far off it becoming a genuine alternative to this rubbish.

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