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Friday 9 December 2016

Upbeat Kilbane offers message of hope

Former Irish international Kevin Kilbane at the FAI Junior Cup quarterfinal draw at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Irish international Kevin Kilbane at the FAI Junior Cup quarterfinal draw at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Peterborough United’s Chris Forrester (right) in action against West Brom’s Cristian Gamboa. Photo: PA

Kevin Kilbane has done some homework on Italy, Sweden and Belgium and he has a message of hope for Ireland fans before the Euro 2016 finals in France.

After covering Italy during their complete qualifying campaign wearing his media hat, Kilbane believes that Martin O'Neill should have no fears about the Azzuri, that Sweden are no great shakes either but that Belgium are more than worth their reputation.

In Dublin as an ambassador for the FAI Junior Cup at the quarter-final draw in the Aviva yesterday, Kilbane is already fully tuned into the excitement of the summer ahead.

"It's a difficult one to call but you look at the group, you look at Italy, a big name, but look at their team man for man. I've covered every single Italy game through the qualifiers and honest to God, I don't see any real threat within that side, I really don't.

"It's a big statement but man for man we're as good as Italy. I think we are. Darmian, he's not as good as Seamus Coleman. Up front, Pelle is not as good as Shane Long," said Kilbane.

Vulnerable

"In midfield, they've got good player. Verratti is a good player and he would get in most sides in the world but defensively they're vulnerable. I saw them struggle against Malta and Azerbajain. Pace is one big thing they'll struggle against," he added.

"I am hopeful because I think we're going to be pinning our hopes on the Sweden game probably in the same way we did Croatia four years ago. But Croatia are above and beyond Italy and Sweden and they were the so-called lesser team in that group.

"Man-for-man we're not not as good as Belgium but man-for man we're probably as good as the other two sides.

"I think we're maybe peaking at the right time. Towards the end of that campaign, Martin started to get across his ideas to players and they were taking it all on board."

Kilbane believes that prepa ration for the finals should be measured and a long, boring boot camp should be avoided at all costs.

"There's a certain amount of boredom just sitting in a room for five weeks without leaving the hotel," he said.

"I think Mick (McCarthy) had a good balance when we were at the world cup. I think probably Jack (Charlton) did before him and that's why the team succeeded at the tournament we were at.

"There's got to be an element of trust. I think sometimes that trust has been taken to an extreme by one or two of the players but I just can't see it being an issue around this tournament. I really can't.

"It was that one in particular (Euro 2012). When you speak to the lads who were in an around that squad at the time, it was a long slog I think. Even before the tournament began.

"Trap's thing was literally never leave your hotel. He wanted to get the Italian mentality about the side from day one. That's what he wanted around the tournament," said Kilbane.

Odd as it may seem, Kilbane thought that McCarthy's pre-Japan/Korea camp was hugely successful, even if Ireland lost their captain somewhere in the middle of it.

"It helped us a bit that we had a few flights before we went to Japan. We went to a few different places, had something different to deal with. We certainly had something to talk about before the World Cup.

Hilarity

"In many respects, it killed a lot of time and there was a lot of time to kill," said Kilbane, sparking much hilarity among his audience and laughing himself.

The notion that Saipan and Roy Keane's epic ride home was nothing more than high quality training ground gossip to make the hours go by is funny but it's all about perspective in the end.

Headlines may well be bouncing around the world but footballers still have to get through the day-to-day.

"When we went to Saipan I came back feeling as fit as I'd ever been. It worked so well how we did it. We went to such a hot climate and to go back to Japan which was much cooler. I felt great but that's just me.

"I think the lads might need a bit of a breather but you see Wayne Rooney being slaughtered over the last couple of tournaments going off to Vegas or something like this. It's got to be controlled.

"I don't think having a massive blow out for a week and then trying to get that fitness back. I don't think it's possible."

Kilbane has examined the claims being made for fast-track treatment for Chris Forrester following some eye-catching work in midfield for Peteborough in League One and in the FA Cup against West Brom.

"He controlled the whole tempo of the (West Brom) match. I think he's got a big future. We should just let him go play his football, get 50 or 100 games in. But I do think he's destined to play at a higher level," concluded Kilbane.

Aviva FAI Junior Cup Quarter Final Draw

Pike Rovers (Limerick) v Glengad

United (Donegal)

Newmarket Celtic (Clare) v Jonesboro

FC (Limerick)

Kilbarrack United (Dublin) v Sheriff

YC (Dublin)

Rivervalley Rangers (Dublin) v St

Peter’s FC (Combined Counties)

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