Off the back of missing out on the World Cup berth to Christian Eriksen because of Martin O’Neill’s systematic removal of any form of midfield last November, the Danes are in town next Saturday night and the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has barely subsided.
Moments like that 5-1 hammering need to be contextualised before being used a turning point for self-assessment. So, are we in a better position than we were 11 months ago?
In the wake of Sky embarrassing themselves again – who are these Sky Sources exactly? – over the Declan Rice debacle, Rice is still in play to represent the Republic of Ireland at senior level at some stage in the future.
But the focus on young Rice might be papering over cracks somewhat. Where exactly do we stand in terms of playing personnel?
Too many people are focusing on Caoimhin Kelleher because he’s a Liverpool player. He’s hardly kicked a ball and while I’m sure he’ll go on to good things, we’ve got a goalkeeper in Darren Randolph that hasn’t put a foot wrong in his time for the Boys in Green.
Seamus Coleman isn’t in the squad for the Denmark game, but he’s turning 30 on Thursday. Thankfully, O’Neill can no longer ignore the performances of Matt Doherty who has better positional awareness than the current Republic of Ireland captain.
And while names like Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark don’t set pulses racing despite their decent showings in green to date, the Premier League participants are thin on the ground. And that has to be a worry.
Particularly, when you consider Martin O’Neill has reiterated time and time again that playing at the highest level possible, is paramount when questioned about his lack of League of Ireland call-ups.
By thin on the ground, I mean just two of the next 18 players in the positional squad sheet submitted by the FAI, ply their trade in the top tier.
And look – that’s fine if you believe that footballers are either better than that level, or you believe you can improve them. After all, you’re an international manager and there’s every chance you’re as good a coach if not better than the player’s club boss.
But O’Neill doesn’t believe that. He frequently dismissed the idea of coaching – more pointing out that he expects players to know what to do. By accepting external coaching preparation, you’re limiting Championship players to Championship performances.
With all the furore about our players’ current level of play and a seemingly defeatist acceptance of their abilities being directly linked to that level for good – we need to start assessing the best players available to us.
In midfield, a three-man composition of Jeff Hendrick, Harry Arter and David Meyler might be conducive to getting feet on the ball. But up front – we’ve inexperience and a lack-of-goal threat.
The meme-ification of Shane Long’s goal droughts speaks for itself, while the Preston North End trio of Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire and Aiden O’Brien can probably formulate some form of partnership if they’re dependent on club methodology rather than international instruction.
Aiden O’Brien, Scott Hogan and Ronan Curtis haven’t had enough exposure at the level to be properly assessed, but nobody can say with any degree of confidence that they’re the answer we need.
But while we all ponder striking options on the bubble and keep trying to read fine print in order to discover a source of goals, one Irish-eligible striker scored a hat-trick this weekend in the division that directly supplies the majority of our players.
It’s about time Martin O’Neill gave Birmingham City’s Lukas Jutkiewicz a call.