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Tuesday 21 November 2017

O'Neill's words reveal mindset which gave us Tbilisi

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
Ireland's Shane Long

Football managers often make comments after a defeat which don't make much sense. After Ireland were beaten by Serbia, it was Martin O'Neill's turn to raise eyebrows with his words.

In particular, two things he said brought me up short. He spoke about a young Robbie Keane and what he would give to have him now, with the implication that all Ireland's problems would be solved if O'Neill had a decent striker.

This was very unfair to Shane Long. How many chances did Ireland create for him in Georgia? Strikers can't do it all on their own but he was asked to. How many chances - clear chances in the penalty area - did Ireland create for Long against Serbia? Very few.

I've also seen much comment about Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire as potential saviours but this is nonsense.

Unrealistic

Pinning Ireland's hopes on an injury prone Championship striker with no international experience and a young lad who is only starting out is unfair and unrealistic when Ireland can't even create enough chances for Premier League players like Long and Jon Walters.

What is so frustrating is that Ireland have played well under O'Neill and created chances, usually when they have nothing to lose and almost always when Wes Hoolahan is on the pitch.

This brings me to the second comment by O'Neill which stopped me in my tracks. He said that he would have taken the position Ireland are in now if someone had offered it to him before Group D got under way.

I can put that to bed very quickly indeed by pointing out that Ireland were in control of this group heading into the New Year after a great win in Austria.

A dominant position in the group has been thrown away and the buck stops with the manager on that one.

It is very revealing that he said it though. It gives a glimpse into his thinking and for me, explains exactly why Ireland played the way they did against Georgia.

When you are constantly giving the opposition credit and saying publicly time and time again that Ireland are not as technically gifted as other teams, you have no right to be surprised when they play like that.

When a manager does that even for weak teams like Gibraltar and Moldova, it tells me a great deal about his own confidence in the squad he is managing.

Serbia proved to me what I already knew. Given the right encouragement and with the right players on the pitch, Ireland can play and play well.

It would be nice to find new strikers or even stumble on an Irish Ben Woodburn but just nine months ago when Ireland were sitting pretty on top of the group, none of that seemed as urgent as it does now.

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