Ireland faces a hard road ahead…

Richard Dunne was visibly ‘gutted’ after the Republic’s exit from the World Cup. Although manager Brian Kerr is reportedly upbeat about the team’s future, it seems as though in soccer Ireland (north and south) may have come to the end of an era which has lasted more than twenty years dating from about 1982 when Northern Ireland topped their group by beating Spain in Seville.

The atmosphere around Landsdowne Road before the game was subdued. No one I spoke too seemed to have any real expectation that team was up to the challenge of taking three points off the Swiss. In the event, despite a fluent defensive and midfield performance, they simply didn’t have the bite in front of goal to get themselves ahead.

Now they face being downgraded to ‘weak’ team status, which will mean a hard road ahead with back to back games against strong teams in any future quest to qualify for European and World Cup tournaments. As Niall Quinn mentioned yesterday in an exclusive interview (to be published next week), Irish players are having a tough time getting and keeping their places in Premiership sides with clubs constantly raiding Eastern Europe, America and Africa for new talent. It’s going to be tough to pull together players of the top rank experience of O’Neill, Brady, Jennings, Stapleton and Quinn himself.

Whoever comes in after Brian Kerr is going to face a difficulty that Jack Charlton never had: namely a huge and, at times, viciously hostile press corps. If widely tipped favourite David O’Leary does take over, he may first have to lower expectations of what is possible before his squad ever get to put on their boots!

  • Keith M

    I’m actually quite relived that the Repulic are goine from the World Cup as I feared that the long slow agony would be prolonged until and humiliation in the play-offs.

    Kerr has been a manager. We haven’t beaten a team in the top 80 in the World in a competitive game under his reign, and bringing back the Cork gurrier showed complete lack of direction and judgement. Kerr will be history and Keane with him.

    The result of Kerr’s disasterous tenure is that we are now among the fourth seeds for Euro 08, that’s the lowest seedings wev’ve had in decades. Whoever takes over (I would settle for O’Leary or O’Neill) has a major job to pull us back before we drop down even further.

  • Henry94

    KiethM

    I like Kerr but the display as much as the result means his time is up. I don’t think any established manager will take on the job. The prospects are not that bright with a lack of emerging talent.

    But we enjoyed some great days over the last 20 years.

    Ireland, Northen Ireland, Scotland and Wales all face similar problems. The north showed that a new manager can make a difference but not enough of a difference if the talent is not available

  • smcgiff

    ‘We haven’t beaten a team in the top 80 in the World in a competitive game under his reign’

    You Prime Time watcher you!

    As for Keane being history, I think time will prove you wrong. He has a long life in football ahead of him if he so wishes it, which may extend to him being manager of the Republic. If the time comes, don’t gurn too much during a strong wind!

  • Donnie

    It’s been a terribly disappointing campaign but in reality Kerr or a replacement really have to make the best of a limited number of eligible players. They’ve definitely punched above their weight in past competitions simply through passion and pride in the jersey (even if some of the players had a tenuous link with the Emerald Isle!). The passion and commitment seems to have gone – they money involved in club football seems to be more of a motivating force than national pride.

    Myer’s wrote something to this effect lately and although I think a lot of his journalism is sensationalist nonsense I thought this article hit the nail on the head.

  • Mark

    After some of the flak that has come Northern Ireland’s way in recent week’s it’s hard not to have a wry smile that we both ended up in the same position, but I am disappointed the Republic didn’t get through, it’s always nice to have some Irish representation in the finals. I wouldn’t have brought Keane back on principle – no player is bigger than the team, a philosophy Lawrie Sanchez seems to be sticking to admirably. The simple fact is that football is now a truly global sport, so other countries have inevitably caught up and passed the Irish teams. While the standard Irish News response to this is that it’s a sign of the need for an all-Ireland team, I think it shows we have to be realistic in what we demand from whichever team we support – qualification would be great but the most important thing is that the players give their all and the fans give them total support. I haven’t followed the Republic’s campaign that closely, but I know the Northern team and both sets of supporters always deliver on that front.

    Donnie’s point about the money is all too true – it seems to me the Republic have too many players sitting at Premiership clubs getting big money but not getting a game. Northern players like Healy and Gillespie have shown big improvements by dropping down a division, possibly taking a pay cut in the process, to get regular first team football.

  • cas

    I disagree with Dumphy’s comments regarding a prelonged stay in the wilderness before we reach a major finals again.

    Many of the players are under 26 and are all playing premiership football, week in week out.

    I would be concerned if we were having to trawl the first & second divisions looking for players, but thats not the case.

    Given,O’Brien,Dunn,Finnan,Dunn,Carr,O’Shea,Kilbane,Reid,Duff,Keane & Elliott are all playing for premiership clubs.

    Stephen Kelly(21) at spurs has broken into the Spurs first team
    Wilo Flood(20) has been impressive since his move to Coventry City
    Aidan McGeady(19)is out of favour with Strachen at Celtic but has great potential.

    With young prospects like Stephen Elliott coming into the senior squad the signs remain fairly optomistic.

    What has been lacking is leadership and the clear lack of confidence in the team has to rest on Kerr’s shoulders.

    The great strides by the FAI in coaching and development over the last few years will clearly pay dividends and this already being seen in the increased interest being shown by premiership scouts in the League Of Ireland.

  • caulfield

    I wonder if a united team would have qualified?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Caulfield

    “I wonder if a united team would have qualified?”

    Hard to say. There was so much about the events at Lansdowne that was crushingly disappointing. You kinda got the sense that those players didn’t care enough. That they hadn’t made the sacrifices necessary to prepare themselves. They should be eating teams like Switzerland for breakfast. The fact that the Irish players, who are all good Premiership players, were reduced to hoofing the long ball up the middle against a very average side said a lot about what’s wrong. The preparation hadn’t been put in. They weren’t sufficiently prepared to represent their country. After the match John Giles talked a lot about the team’s lack of “moral courage,” and he was right.

    I’ve spent the summer watching the GAA championships and the Ashes. Earlier in the year we had a cracking Six Nations. Those sports just keep throwing up heroes. In many of those matches we saw real examples of courage and heroism. Teams like the Armagh and Tyrone footballers, the Cork hurlers, the English cricketers and Welsh rugby team – there was a morality to their victories. Equally, I think there was a morality in Ireland’s failure the other night.

    Meanwhile in Austria the notherners went down to a 2-0 defeat in which they can take car more pride than anything we saw in Lansdowne. Sure, it wasn’t pretty and the north should have had at least three men sent off, but the fans there could have no doubt that their team had given everything they had. They should have been three up at half time, but if they keep playing with the kind of moral courage they showed in Vienna their luck will change. I wish they had won.

    Could things have been different if Robbie Keane had been playing off David Healy instead of that (insert pejorative of your choice) Clinton Morrison? Definitely. Bill Shankly once said that as far as he was concerned, it didn’t make any difference if you were a good player or not, the question was whether you were a good man. In a singe team Healy should start, Morrison should not be asked back. I also think Keith Gillespie would have started. At least he would have tried to take men on and get down the flanks.

    NI’s best player is Maik Taylor, but even he couldn’t dislodge Shay Given. (Jennings, Bonner, Given, Taylor, Gregg, the great Eddie McMahon – why does Ulster produce so many top class goalkeepers?)

    As for Kerr, surely he must go? He’s a good man but he’s clearly not up to the job. The first thing the manager has to do now is challenge the players to be better men. Throw down the gauntlet, shame them. (They should be ashamed.) It’s hard to see any manager with no playing experience and a negative track record as a senior manager being able to do that.

    O’Neill is the perfect candidate for the job. When he was at Leicester and particularly at Celtic he got his men to play with the kind of commitment that you’d only usually see on a Gaelic pitch. That’s what’s required with Ireland now. He has the track record as a player and as a manager to go in there and kick those pampered playboys up the arse like they’ve never been kicked before, and that’s what needs to happen.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Incidentally, I’m surprised to see Keith M advocating the appointment of O’Neill. You think Merrion Square should look outside your “country” and appoint a foreigner?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Oh, and I would add that I think a joint north/south Irish team under O’Neill could win the fecking World Cup.

  • smcgiff

    Perhaps the ‘Fecking World Cup’ but hardly FIFA’s version! 🙂

    ‘I wonder if a united team would have qualified?’

    Again, hard to say. If we could put the clock back a year to the first Israel game and if the ROI players all woke up on a different side of the bed then the ROI should have qualified at least for the play offs.

    As has been said before Brian is a terribly nice man and I’d have loved to seen him doing well, but it’s time to go.

    However, Martin O’Neil wouldn’t touch the ROI job with a barge poll (and not just because his wife is ill).

  • jimmy

    Perhaps its time to look foreign for a replacement.Its worked before.

    After all , England,Scotland & N.Ireland all have foreign managers.Toshack isn’t looking too secure either.

  • maca

    Keano has retired. I suppose it was inevitable.

  • Keith M

    “Incidentally, I’m surprised to see Keith M advocating the appointment of O’Neill. You think Merrion Square should look outside your “country” and appoint a foreigner?”

    Absolutely, if not O’Leary (the only person from this country I would consider to be qualified) then O’Neill or Bobby Robson. I don’t believe the Alex Ferfuson / Roy Keane story for a minute.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    “Given,O’Brien,Dunn,Finnan,Dunn,Carr,O’Shea,Kilbane,Reid,Duff,Keane & Elliott are all playing for premiership clubs.”

    Technically I suppose, but Keane is gone and Kilbane rumoured to follow. Outside of the defence, which is reasonably good, only Duff of the players listed is in his side’s starting XI. We struggled last time when we were given a #1 seeding. Seeded fourth it’s hard to see any grounds for optimism.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    The game was there to be won but there was no-one on the team (apart from Zinedine Kilbane) who was prepared to take the hard option and take on the opposition. They were all taking for the easy option and passing sideways or looking for others to do the work. No leaders, no-one with balls.

    The fans turn up alright but I sense that the same identification with the team that there was in previous years isn’t there any more. The characters are gone. Irish players over the last few decades have tended to be fairly rounded individuals and you could pick a couple of teams from Irish internationals working in the media these days but I can’t see many of the current bunch doing it in years to come.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sounds, from Brian Kerr’s demenour on the Late Late Show, like he intends to stay on.

  • dermy

    Watched the Man City game today

    A young irish lad called Stephen Ireland from Cork was very impressive in central midfield.
    17 years old and looked like he had been playing alongside Reyna for years.Wilo Flood at City is also tipped by Stewart Pierce to be a scoring machine in the coming years

    21 year old Kevin Doyle continued his impressive form for Reading today, since his move from Cork City during the summer, scored one and set up the other.

    21 Year old Stephen Elliott scored a wonder goal against Man u yesterday.

    Stephen Kelly(21) had to be happy with a place on the bench for Spurs yesterday , Martin Jol has said that Kelly will be the mainstay of the Spurs defence in the coming years.

    Just a few examples of the up and coming young Irish talent breaking through in England.

    Its difficult to talk about ‘periods in the wilderness’ before we qualify for another major tournament, you cannot predict who will force their way into the international team in the next couple of years.

    Good start to the UEFA u19 qualifying tournament this evening with a 2-1 win over northern ireland

  • slug

    If Ferguson becomes ROI’s new manager, am I permitted to want them to lose?