If Ireland are to rebuild properly the manager needs a plan

A tepid 0-0 draw against Denmark for the Irish soccer team doesn't offer much hope that the game against Wales on Tuesday night will be any different...


There was something poetic about Shane Duffy throwing himself to the ground last night: the epitome of a no-nonsense, hardman aerial threat flinging himself to the ground in hilarious fashion to try and pull the wool.

But it wasn’t just the referee’s eyes that would have been temporarily blinded.

We’ve got a beautiful will to win in this country. That’s required across all levels of sport and we shouldn’t try to qualify that. But our own particular brand of needing to win is defined simply by the fact that nobody will care about the sporting team, political movement or social trend if it proceeds to lose.

The only thing that returned after a heavy loss in this country was that poxy Lisbon Treaty referendum. And, seemingly, Martin O’Neill.

When something is as droll as that game last night, it’s usually best to try and find a metaphor.

O’Neill spoke after the game about the bizarre incident that saw Jeff Hendrick go clean through on goal against Kasper Schmeichel, despite the Danish players halting for an injured party. He said that they probably would have had to let Denmark score had Hendrick netted.

The irony isn’t lost on me.

Not only did Hendrick fail to hear the clear protests going on around him to stop, he was also wide of the mark when allowed too much leeway. It’s a bit like his manager really, isn’t it?

Ireland lined out in a 5-4-1 formation: a back five, with ‘young’ Matt Doherty (26) at right wing-back, James McClean on the opposite flank, with a diamond shape in front of them. Harry Arter was tasked with spreading play.

Of course, he was frequently bypassed as a playmaker and the ball found its way to McClean and Doherty far too early in the buildup. And that’s only in situations where Shane Long wasn’t scurrying to receive the ball to his chest after it was ballooned towards an area frequently unoccupied by the Tipperary man.

We could point out systematic flaws with Ireland, but given Martin O’Neill’s self-confessed indifference to coaching, it’s nearly pointless.


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Sure, we’ll still have to listen to him point out reasons why his players can’t nail down certain roles due to contrasts in their styles at club level, but when he’s putting Cyrus Christie on the right of a midfield diamond, he’s further cementing himself as a parody of the person he must believe himself to be.

Yet, he’ll not feel obliged to justify the selection because Christie was probably his best player on the pitch. For no other reason than his willingness to run. He ran. He ran some more and he even had Ireland’s first shot on target.

In the 71st minute of the game.

By our standards, Christie should be in line for a Ballon d’Or nomination. We’ll continue to view Irish football at the highest level on a micro scale, when in reality there’s a fairly large, juicy elephant in most rooms in Abbotstown.

Last night, I found myself praying for a Danish goal late on, so we would be spared the same nonsense we’ve grown accustomed to following a half-decent result. Very much like the population of this country, a manager and a governing organisation seem happy to just float in the wilderness with no roadmap.


O’Neill spoke afterwards of a “rebuild”. In order to properly rebuild, you have to have a plan, not an aura of self-importance and a scrapbook in your brain of all your past achievements.

We’ll finish with one positive and one negative. On a bright note: Callum Robinson.

Conversely, his manager probably believes, much like our ill-fated World Cup qualification bid, that had Seamus Coleman played, we’d have won the game.

It’s hard to look forward to the Wales game on Tuesday. Or any game, really.

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What do you think?