Despondent Andrews admits side were sapped by 'chasing shadows'
OF ALL the words that crop up in UEFA-approved coaching classes and manuals, the true Dublinese phrase "knackered" is hard to be found. Clip-board-toting coaches don't use words like that.
But when Keith Andrews says that Ireland's players were well and truly worn out by the effort of winning possession from Spain that they were then too tired to do anything with the ball, then you know that we -- Ireland, Irish football -- has a problem.
As Ireland's players emerged from the dressing room in the Gdansk Arena last night following the 4-0 loss, they were still struggling to come to terms with the scale of their defeat. Almost everyone, outside of the most wide-eyed Irish patriot, expected the Spanish to win the game, but the sheer gulf between the two sets of players was not so evident pre-match.
But once the whistle blew and action started, it came to pass.
"We tried to get about them but you're chasing shadows. When you do win the ball back you're knackered -- whoever wins the ball back has no real options on the ball," Andrews said, the Dubliner clearly frustrated at losing by the largest margin of his international career.
"We tried to get the ball to Aiden (McGeady) and (Damien) Duffer as much as we could, though we didn't do that enough, so we have to hold our hands up and admit that, regardless of Spain last night, we weren't good enough.
"We were chasing shadows for large parts of the game. We tried to stamp our authority on the game, we tried to make it as awkward as possible for them, but it was very difficult as they just move the ball so well. They have options everywhere you look.
"Even though we conceded an early goal we could still keep it going, keep things tight and at half-time we said we had to learn our lessons and not concede early in the second half, but we didn't do that as they scored again.
"At half-time we just said to keep going, try to force a corner or get a decent free kick. We knew we could be dangerous from set pieces," added Andrews.
That comment was one of the scariest to emerge from the post-game interviews with the Irish players.
After four years of work under Trapattoni, two years of a qualifying campaign, a Euro 2012 warm-up programme that began in earnest with a friendly against the Czech Republic way back in February, our main strategy to beat Spain was to try and nick a set piece.
No theory, no positive tactics, no plan, no idea -- force a corner and hope for the best. And in the end, it clearly was nowhere near good enough, a frustration for Andrews.
"We worked our socks off for two years to get here, so to go out like this is very disappointing, this is something that none of us wanted," he said.
"We were under no illusions about the fact that the group was going to be difficult but losing 3-1 and 4-0 is not what we wanted," Andrews added.
"I don't know about after the tournament, we just have to get this game on Monday out of the way.
"Anyone who was there last night or watched on TV saw how good the fans were. When you're losing 4-0 but the only fans you can hear are the Irish fans, that makes you kick on and makes you want to give them everything you've got. I don't think there was a lack of effort, maybe a lack of quality sometimes, but come Monday against Italy we will be up for the game."