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End of season hangover for weary Ireland

NO doom and gloom from me after Ireland lost to Turkey. Sure, it’s a second successive defeat at home but the circumstances must be taken into account. If ever there was an end of season hangover, this was it.

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have a lot of work to do, I won’t deny that, but I saw positives in the game and it must be remembered that many of the players in green are thinking about the beach.

I know everyone has been talking about stalking a claim for a place in the Euro 2016 qualifiers but that’s the kind of stuff you have to say at this time of the year, even though you know it doesn’t mean a great deal.

In my own time, I used to absolutely hate these games and not because I didn’t want to play for Ireland but because the gap between the end of the club season and these summer internationals is long enough to make fitness a big problem.

It is unbelievably difficult to get the body to respond at the level you need when your main job is finished for the season and you’ve already had a few weeks off.

That was very obvious from the start against Turkey. I thought our big names like Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea and Shane Long all looked leggy and tired.

They have given everything they have to their clubs in the Premier League season and it was no surprise to me that Ireland started slowly and finished in the ascendancy.

By then, the legs were warmed up and some of the cobwebs had been shaken loose and there were plenty of plusses. Wes Hoolahan showed more of the intelligent football he likes to play and came into the game more as his legs readjusted. He hasn’t played much this season and he looked delighted to be kicking a ball.

He brings guile and a clever pass to Ireland and for home games particularly, I think he has to play.

Aiden McGeady was also bright and effective and he’s another who hasn’t had a great deal of football in recent months. He admitted himself that he hasn’t managed to be at his best for Ireland often enough but this was one of the games where he looked like he meant it.

James McClean matched him on the left flank and the two wingers were O’Neill’s most potent attacking threat.

What was painfully obvious was the fact that Robbie Keane was in LA and we don’t have someone to finish when he’s not around. Long had plenty of chances and should have had at least one goal. I’ve no doubt that Robbie would have buried that first chance. He is still Ireland’s best chance of a goal and that won’t any time soon.

At the back, we were a mess in the early moments of the game but O’Neill will have options come the autumn and Richard Dunne showed that in the play-off final on Wembley on Saturday.

TITANIC

He was titanic; yet another huge performance in a big, big game, from Ireland’s best defender of the last decade.

I sense that O’Neill would like to move on and that Dunne might not be his first choice in September but if he is playing in the Premier League the way he did in Wembley, I’m not sure you could leave him out.

One thing which I did find worrying was the very poor crowd that turned up. I know there was plenty going on in Dublin over the weekend but 20,000 was a very poor showing.

It underlined the fact that the FAI really need O’Neill and Keane to deliver. These days there are a thousand and one different events competing for resources and attention and only winning football will bring them to the Aviva.

Times are tough, I know, and many of the fans are obviously waiting until the games mean something before they part with their hard-earned cash.


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