Sunday 19 November 2017

Robbie Brady: 'We can win in Warsaw'

Robbie Brady, Republic of Ireland, in action
Robbie Brady, Republic of Ireland, in action

ROBBIE Brady was just a wide-eyed nine-year-old with big dreams the last time Ireland beat a major nation in Dublin in a competitive game.

Since last Thursday's win over Germany, memories of that 2001 World Cup defeat of Louis van Gaal's Holland jumped around his brain.

That's fitting, as the German win three days ago really was a case of Boys To Men, when relative rookies like Brady and Jeff Hendrick stepped up a level in terms of international football while James McCarthy played the game of his life in a green shirt, after a long, long wait for the midfielder to deliver on all his promise and dominate a game.

It's often said that players take until around the 15-cap mark to feel really at home on the international stage.

Brady (now 17 caps) and Hendrick (16), boys no longer but now men, Hendrick in particular a shining light to young players starting out on career careers back home in the schoolboy leagues in Ireland, and a Premier League player in waiting, should any manager in the English top flight decide to make a move for Hendrick in the January window, a move he deserves after proving himself in the second tier and now international level for so long.

Right now, the Norwich City man is too focused on the join in hand here in Warsaw to think of The Big Idea because there is a big job still to do: beat Poland tomorrow nigh and Ireland avoid the playoff route which has been such a source of misery for us over the last two decades.

But for Brady, who would also have been just an Ireland fan for the miseries of the last decade, the spill-off from the win over Germany is both a reminder of what was good in the past and what could be great in the future.

"People said that the Germany win the other night was us rolling back the years, but that's not really the case for me," Brady told The Herald.

"I wasn't even born for the first couple of championships under Jack Charlton and I was just a young kid when we qualified in 2002.

"I was just a kid who wanted to be out there on the pitch, I was sitting on my sofa, watching those games on TV like the wins over people like Holland and Croatia, and dreaming about maybe some day playing for Ireland in a big game at Lansdowne Road.

"I still remember the Holland win in 2001, and it was great to have a taste of that the other night.

"I had a feeling before the game that we could come away with something but to get a win against the world champions is out of this world, maybe it was like rolling back the years to the Charlton days and the good times under Mick McCarthy. It was my best night in football, no doubt about that, the fans were unbelievable on Thursday and I know they will be good for us in Warsaw tonight.

"We had lads in the team against Germany who hadn't played much club football, Wardy hasn't had much luck at Burnley this season, but every player we had out there did their job against Germany.

"We have lads back from suspension and injury as well. The strength in depth in this squad is great, it will be hard if someone has to miss out tomorrow night as the XI who started and the lads who came on against the Germans did well, that's the manager's call, I just hope we can book our tickets to France."

That all hinges on events in Warsaw. No matter what, Ireland will stay in the race for France 2016 as a playoff spot is guaranteed, but a win or a high-scoring draw will see us get qualification automatically ahead of Poland.

"We feel we can come here and win," added Brady, one of the players who took the trip down the N9 last night to see the Irish U21s, managed by his former boss at that level Noel King, take on Lithuania in a Euro qualifier.

"It's good, from my point of view anyway, that we only have a three-day turn around before the next game, we can keep the ball rolling.

"We were all on such a high the other night that it would have been such a pity to wait around a month for the next game so we are all buzzing coming to Poland."

Brady was relieved of his defensive duties against Germany as Stephen Ward resumed the left back role he lost to Brady, but the return from suspension of midfielders Glenn Whelan and James McClean offers O'Neill the option of reverting to Brady at left back, though that would be harsh on Stephen Ward who was very solid against the Germans.

"We have to keep players like Lewandowski quiet we have a chance. He is a great player, one of the best around at the moment but it's not just him, we have to keep their whole team quiet as they have other good players as well He is on fire so we have to watch him but hopefully he has an off day tomorrow and we can sail through," added Brady.

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