Wales 4-1 Ireland
The UEFA Nations League started last night for Ireland and Wales in Cardiff, Ryan Giggs managed Wales in a first competitive match after playing in a Tournament in China over the summer. Wales for their part may have had revenge in mind although that particular notion was dismissed quickly in the build up to last night’s game.
For Martin O Neill and Roy Keane, the game was a welcome distraction after a week of off field issues dominated the build up with players withdrawing for varying reasons and a number of key strikers in particular missing out through injury. Men like Shane Long, Scott Hogan, Sean Maguire were all marked absent last night which saw Jonathan Walters who recently rejoined Ipswich Town on loan from Burnley lead the line. He is 35 now. You were asking him to lead the line against a side that had youth in abundance in their 11 last night.
The four goals were of real quality but the Irish defence was very poor on each occasion , in particular for the Gareth Bale goal , where Ben Davies sprayed a cross field ball into the path of Gareth Bale who in turn turned inside and fired past a despairing dive from Darren Randolph. The back four had three Premier league based players, Shane Duffy of Brighton, Ciaran Clarke of Newcastle United, Stephen Ward of Burnley with Cyrus Christie of Derby County.
Injuries are again causing issues with team selections, but the performance last night was one of the worst from an Irish team in recent years. Yes they were players missing but again a lack of ideas along with some shambolic defending will have people again questioning why Roy Keane and Steve Guppy are in Martin O Neill’s back room team. They seem to be just sitting on the bench and every so often offering ideas to O ‘Neill at certain points of a game.
The performance last night was very poor and players in my humble opinion can’t keep coming out in the aftermath of a game and saying we must try and do better but yet again we can’t even keep possession when we have the ball and the players just look devoid of ideas and they don’t seem to be getting much helping in coaching terms.
Up to a few months ago one could say we were water tight at the back and with that situation you can try and move from there but now having conceding four goals last night inside 55 minutes without troubling Wayne Hennessey at the other end the Irish squad and management have plenty to work on when they face Poland next Tuesday before facing Wales and Denmark next month in the Nations League.
There doesn’t seem to be any sort of appetite from the FAI to try and start to solve the many issues that are surrounding the Irish National side. They do not seem to play in a particular style or seem to understand how to defend after two extremely poor performances where they have conceded 9 goals in two games.
Straight away, the first thing that will be mentioned would be to replace O Neill and put someone in place that will get the players playing with style but these issues go deeper and will really need to be addressed from the FAI down. It will take some tough decisions from the FAI and like most long term projects, this issue will take time and patience to solve. They are two things that most supporters in any sport do not have as we live in the era of instant success or else.
We have been here before and knowing the way things have worked in recent times we are likely to be here again in the future as the FAI are highly unlikely to take any drastic action in the short term but drastic action is what is required at all levels.
People can continue to give out we do not have the same quality of player as we had in the 80s or 90s , those days are long gone and people really need to move into the 21st century. Yes we are struggling currently but with the correct action plan, the good days could return over the next 5 to 10 years.
Starting again with all underage sides get them playing a certain style and then get all underage sides to adopt the same or similar style and with that small change we could see some positive results in the short term into the long term.
For now though for the squad, it’s time to focus on Poland and move from there…..
Cian Mc Gibney