Friday 21 October 2016

Ireland move in to new home

Robbie Keane and Cyrus Christie in action during Ireland squad training yesterday
Robbie Keane and Cyrus Christie in action during Ireland squad training yesterday

They kitted everyone out in shiny new stuff for the big move. Martin O'Neill stood like a Christmas present just unwrapped against a backdrop of overwhelming activity in Abbotstown, the creases in his tracksuit still sharp from lack of use.

This was an important day for the FAI and the campus project and everyone was on best behaviour. Efficiency was the watchword and to be fair to everyone involved in pushing this training facility through, it's looking well.

The pitch Ireland used is worthy of Ronnie O'Sullivan and given where they were at a few weeks back, an amount of work must have been squeezed into a short space of time to get the place anywhere near ready.

The only negative is the noise but that in itself is a positive. There is a grumbling and constant roar of heavy lifters, diggers and rollers in the air working on the nearby indoor training arena rising rapidly along with a myriad of other buildings, pitches and infra-structure. It will be something else when it's finished.


For those of us who still have nightmares about paper maché models on tables in hotel rooms and a variety of businessmen making a pitch to build things like this but never actually doing it, this has to be seen to be believed.

There is also the abiding sense that Bertie might have been right after all. This would have been a good place for a big stadium, as is easily visible when you drive up towards the FAI HQ through a forest of massive floodlighting pylons placed around the GAA's facility and see the scale of the undertaking.

And for those of us who have trekked around the world and been humbled in far off places like Kazakhstan to see wonderful custom built complexes dedicated entirely to sport, it is good to see our own rising rapidly on an old farm.

But back to O'Neill. No major scandals to talk about. Jack Grealish is still staring in the mirror and trying to see his future. Roy Hodgson announced his squad with no sign of him in it.


There was a brief skirmish about Damien Delaney but this is a story based on a poorly transcribed tape, even if it did poke a stick in the bush and flush out a few oddities

To refresh: A London report suggested that Delaney had demanded a guarantee from O'Neill. The player reacted to the misquote, denied he had looked for any promises and those of us who had a tape listened back and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Delaney put Diego Costa in his pocket on Saturday during Palace's shock win over Chelsea and has a decent stint as a Premier League defender in his CV. It's not like O'Neill can afford to be choosy but to be fair to the Ireland boss, this does seem a one-sided debate, as he explained.

"I stand by exactly what I said at the time. I don't remember having any real strong words with Damien at all. He seems to think (there's) a difference of philosophy. I didn't see that at all, honestly.


"He said that he was of an age where he did not want to travel around with the team and really not be involved with the side. I said, 'I cannot guarantee you that'.

"It is relatively straightforward. I didn't fall out with him at the end of the day. He asked me do I want to play a different way because I think he had played a couple of long balls or something like that. I said, 'not at all'.

"I have had some of the strongest centre halves in my time playing at Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa, some of them were very comfortable on the ball like Mattie Elliott and some, like Bobo Balde, were not.

"You know, being able to defend first in games is very, very important. That is what I am looking for. So I do not see how Damien could pick up anything else and think I was looking for someone who could caress it all the time."

O'Neill would not shut the door on Delaney over what is clearly a misunderstanding.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. I am not in a position to dismiss anything if someone ends up changing their mind."

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