Are you Martin O’Neill in disguise? Many an Ireland fan was wondering this after the double away header games against Georgia and Switzerland last week.
A drab 0-0 draw away to Georgia, followed by Switzerland’s loss to Denmark later that day meant Ireland had to win one of their final games against the top two seeded sides. And from the performance in Tblisi and another poor showing against Switzerland a sense of dejavu is unfolding.
We were awful against Georgia, we couldn’t play any passes from defence to midfield and try and build up even the most basic of moves that might lead to an attack or shock-horror a shot on goal. If the Georgian’s who had a lot of good opportunities to shoot just outside the box hadn’t kept thinking they were in Croke Park and scoring points we should have lost.
The Switzerland game just confirmed McCarthy’s limitations, as much as a manager as the squad he has to work with. We have one of the best defences in European football and we are very lucky to have Randolph and Duffy, without them we would be long out of contention for this do or die game against Denmark.
The lucky thing is, it’s Denmark at home and not Switzerland, who have been far and away the best team in the group despite the group standings. Denmark have regressed since they trashed us 5-1 and did well at the following World Cup.
That gives McCarthy a sliver of hope, much like when Ireland beat Wales away under O’Neill. McCarthy needs to be brave or we are heading to the back door of the Nations League play offs. This will be two one off games against teams like Slovakia, Wales and Bosnia in a neutral country. Let’s be realistic we might as well play these arcade games online if we can’t beat Switzerland and Denmark out of four matches, we haven’t a hope of winning twice in the play offs.
Mccarthy needs to be brave and he needs to drop some of his ever presents who haven’t been good enough, Jeff Hendrick, James McLean were extremely poor in our last two games, James Collins and Callum Robinson didn’t work out, Seamus Coleman was a shambles (although he is suspended for the Denmark game). Conor Hourihane might work with another player alongside him. Put simply the team needs to be freshend up, it needs to be able to string a few passes together and if he is going to play with Aaron Connolly try and at least give him some service and not expect him to score off aimless hoofed balls. Ultimately it needs to be McCarthy to drive that message home through the preparations and team selections. The defence will do it’s job it’s up to the manager and the players ahead of them to do theirs.
If we don’t McCarthy will feel like a lame duck manager much like O’Neill was towards the end. Are you Martin O’Neill in disguise? We will soon find out.
words: Tony Phelan