Sunday 19 November 2017

John Giles: Honest Ireland can get the right result

Team selection will be vital and I hope Hoolahan's name is on the starting list


ROY Keane knows a thing or two about big football games and when I saw what he had to say about Ireland Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia, my heart lifted.

He spoke about dealing with the job at hand and not allowing the players to get ahead of themselves. He spoke honestly and with a great deal of common sense.

It may seem like a simple thing but there is always a danger in something like this that minds wander towards the finishing line when the starting gun hasn't even been fired.

I have no concerns that Keane and Martin O'Neill will fall into that trap. These are men who have seen it all at the very highest level in football and the environment around a huge double-header like this is different from the usual day-to-day but the habits needed to negotiate it successfully are the same.

I know Ireland have some major injury issues. I know that losing Jon Walters is a blow and John O'Shea too. Ireland could have done with Shane Long but as Keane said, there's no point in focusing on players who can't play. In fact, it's completely counter-productive to do so.

O'Neill must find eleven fit players and give them the preparation and support they need to take on Bosnia in a confident frame of mind and there's no sense in agonising over what might have been.

Since the start of O'Neill's time in charge, we've seen many different team selections, beginning in Georgia where he decided to leave Wes Hoolahan out despite the fact that he had used him in seven friendly games out of ten.

It set a tone for the rest of the campaign and we arrive at this first-leg still struggling to figure out which team O'Neill believes is his best.


I can offer an opinion on who I think should play but when it comes down to it, that's only so much hot air. The manager makes the calls and lives or dies by his results.

I can see no other option but to play Hoolahan from the start and in a central midfield role.

After the performance against Germany, I would also persist with Robbie Brady further up the pitch and the reason for that is the standard and the result achieved against Germany.

I've pointed out before that the best and most effective football Ireland have played under O'Neill has happened when Hoolahan is involved and I must say, I struggle to understand why he doesn't see that too.

Irish professional footballers are hardwired to give 100% effort and commitment.

They can only really play that way and I expect nothing less in Zenica.

But against technically gifted players which the Bosians undoubtedly are, it needs something more than subtle that just raw passion and hard work and I believe that Hoolahan and Brady can supply that. I don't put any store at all in the idea that Hoolahan cannot play two games in quick succession and I was glad to see Keane say that he doesn't see any problem either.

Even if he did have some long term fitness issue which meant he had to be wrapped in cotton wool from match to match, I would still start him in the first-leg.

As I mentioned above, the second-leg will look after itself and the priority for me is to put out the strongest team available. That should mean Hoolahan starts.

O'Neill is more likely to go with Glenn Whelan as his midfield anchor but he has to find a way to play Hoolahan, even if it is wide on left. This time, I'm fairly confident he will.

O'Neill's attacking options are limited by Walters's absence and he is likely to go with Daryl Murphy up front on his own.

I have to say, I would go with Robbie Keane and I know that might sound odd but this is the kind of game which he was made for and if anyone can get a goal to bring back to Dublin, it could be him.

An away goal would be a huge advantage. Ireland have been decent at the back throughout the qualifying phase and I don't think there will be more than a goal in this when the dust settles.

I find it difficult to make an informed guess about possible results since I haven't seen much of Bosnia but I believe that Ireland can get the result they need.

They are technically gifted and will be playing in a small intimidating ground. For O'Neill and Ireland it will be about cool heads and above all else, discipline.

Several players lost the plot in a very obvious way in the last ten minutes in Warsaw, most notably John O'Shea and we are paying the price for that now. Cool heads will be absolutely vital.

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