Polish friendly may be most important game ever for Irish management

After a week of turmoil in the camp, the result of this friend with Poland could be a defining moment for this Irish management team…


If a week is a long time in football, 811 days must be a lifetime. That’s how many days have passed since Robbie Brady headed in a Wes Hoolahan cross in Lillie.

Granted those brief memories, when embraced in the moment, can be subject to patriotic hyperbole, but Martin O’Neill and co are now needing a result against Poland in a midweek friendly just two years later, to maintain any form of public support, belief and hope.

If Reeling in the Years didn’t exist, there isn’t a soul over 30 in this country that would believe Italia 90 even happened.

You can never recreate memories, but you can absolutely put them on a pedestal by distancing yourself so far from any sort of contentment as a sporting organisation, that nostalgia is all anyone could cling onto.

PaddyPower.com tops the Nations League for football odds

We were at that point. We approached it, we drove through it and we’re now venturing even further into the wilderness of footballing mediocrity. Jesus, you’d even take an Asian island in a walkover if it meant some form of pride in the country again.

While you can be sure it exists, sometimes the link between passion and performance are segregated by cultural anomalies. That’s where we are at the moment.

In the midst of players deciding if they’re Irish or not, that uncertainty is seeping through to fans and half-interested observers alike.

For the first time in decades, the connection between the Irish population and its international football representation is resembling the thinnest of threads. Just as well there’s a Rugby World Cup around the corner so we all briefly turn into eggheads again after they bravely get beaten by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

With whispers of fallouts circulating, we’ve finally undone our only real strength – harmony. We’re not technically sound, we’re not blessed with depth and we’re far from organised as we’ve all been privvied to in the previous UEFA Nations League encounter with Wales.

So, the question now remains – what exactly is the positive of keeping the current management team?

Not the football. Not the results. Now, not even the harmony.

Continuity maybe? If anything, the continuous blind eye turning to the nation’s issues around infrastructure is the root cause of all the turmoil.

There are now two ways to approach this friendly with Poland from a coaching perspective: going out and allowing players to express themselves to prove that the tight ship isn’t suffocating the seamen on board, or effectively nullifying average opposition in order to show that the accidental blueprint is still firmly imprinted in players’ mindsets.

Neither will satisfy those who care most, nor will it do any favours to the players who have to carry out those instructions.

The fact we’re even discussing the importance and the approach to a friendly game that arrives in the middle of tournament whose concept sounds made up by a child with a poor attention span, is the real issue here.

The players know this, too. Of course, the irony in all this is that Denmark, a side whose demolition of O’Neill’s charges last year was the very turning point in public perception, could now relinquish any potential positives O’Neill could take out of a shock result against them.

Their Futsal team could yet still stand in for their senior pros due to a dispute, so any win over them will merely just exist rather than be analysed like the remainder of games. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

This friendly in Wroclaw might be seen as a last-chance saloon to reclaim public support, even acceptance – but the damage is already done and neither the result nor the performance will count for anything.

Marcellus opened a famous William Shakespeare play with the line “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

Clearly, dear Marcellus has never ventured around Dublin 15.

Poles apart? All the latest match betting on Poland v Ireland is on PaddyPower.com

What do you think?