Passion went missing Republic’s ‘pointless’ show at #Euro2012…

Managerialism. That’s what they call it. Shuffling the deck chairs with little or no point or sense of long term value other than to perform a job.

Call me, generally, neutral on the FAI/IFA thing, but last night missed the passion for the green shirt shown in former days by Gerry Armstrong, Sammy Mc, Niall Quinn and even that old fake Irishman Tony Cascarino.

There wasn’t even trace of Jack’s much derided route one to goal. Trap’s game plan was simple and Italian, pull back to the penalty box and defend from deep deep, and kill them, erm, on the break.

At least Charlton understood the vulnerabilities of the limited skill Irish base and had them defend from the half way line and forward. The cunning Irish Italian Cascarino was well practiced at running on to a high ball on the break.

Fintan O’Toole is quick to the lash:

A paradox: impractical pragmatism. What has been so ruthlessly exposed in the fantasy world of football is, as it happens, precisely the thinking by which we live in the real world. It is a way of behaving that looks exactly like hard-nosed, calculating pragmatism. Except for one little twist – it doesn’t work.

In the football universe this is farcical. When applied to real people’s lives, as the governing principle of Irish politics, economics and society, it is a tragedy.

Ah, if only we were Sweden Fintan? Or Denmark, which is a much better bench mark for Ireland in so many ways. But more of that in a later post…

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about these matches has been the sense that the green shirt seemed to count for nothing in the equation. In the early 1980s it was passion and belief of Billy Bingham’s boys which created a shared sense of pride (felt right across these islands) in that green shirt. Not the singing from the terrace.

In 1988, Jack Charlton harnessed that passion again to take the Republic into a major international championship for the first time. I knew English people who cried when the Republic was beaten in Rome in the Quarter finals by just one goal.

This year, no one seems to have even noticed they were even there. Trap’s boys showed up to offer themselves as a willing human sacrifice.

England on the other hand show some signs of getting right what has been wrong with them for many many years.

The elevation of Alf Ramsey to sainthood after 1966 has been a burden heaped on every manager/coach who has taken on the job ever since. Hodgeson’s critical advantage is that having been shoved in the gap left by England’s previous (Italian) manager, no one expects him to succeed.

And for once, he is been left to manage the team he has, not the team the sports journalists and every other fan thinks he ought to have. He is being allowed to manage. As Chris Dillow noted long ago

…too many people fail to see that management is – when done properly – a humble, narrow, technical activity; it’s about finding, creating and building synergies. Instead, they think it’s some mystical thing called leadership.

In the Republic’s case shortage of resource will always put practical limits on the player’s ambition. Yesterday, another top flight club, Monaghan United, slipped out of the Airtricity League of Ireland (and into community development)… Another reminder of how frail soccer has become beyond the big lights of the EPL.

After the Spanish drubbing, one Co Clare born Welsh friend on Twitter wondered if Wales were better off not qualifying for any such big set piece final competitions if it were to mean the kind of humiliation the Republic’s team endured at the hands of such teams.

Northern Ireland may be struggling in doldrums of world soccer, but they are still, if only too occasionally, capable of giving us a reason to take pride in the green shirt. And passion for the shirt and ‘soul’ seems to have the one thing that’s been misplaced in the Republic’s lost decade.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty