Roy was right
After just two matches, Ireland’s European Championship has come to an inglorious, even embarrassing, end. On the road to qualification, we managed to successfully kid ourselves into believing that the Irish team could actually make an impact at the tournament. Two defeats, eight goals and a lot of singing and partying later, reality has finally dawned; the Irish squad is the worst in the tournament.
This of course has caused a familiar Corkman to voice his opinion. His criticism of the fans and the players following the Spanish Massacre has been described in many quarters as “a rant”. Is it really? Who could disagree with this statement?
"They want to see the team winning – let’s not kid ourselves, we’re a small country, we’re up against it, but let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again.”
The words of Roy Keane, in case anybody was still wondering.
The words of FAI Chief Executive John Delaney were a little different. He chose to emphasise the role of the fans.
“The abiding memory that we will take away from this match will be the many thousands of Irish fans singing the ‘Fields of Athenry’ right up to and beyond the final whistle."
Not going to mention the match, John? I wonder why?
Make no mistake about it; the conduct and support of the Irish fans has been exemplary. The behaviour of the Irish fans stands in marked contrast to how Dutch fans reacted when they found their team 0-2 down at half time in their second match. It’s not nice to have the boos of your own supporters ringing in your ears when you’re in most need of a bit of encouragement. At least the Irish fans tried to encourage their players, even when the cause was completely lost.
Roy was right, though. Staying back in the stadium continuing to sing long after the end of the match is a bit bizarre. This gives observers the impression that the fans are happy with the performance. No Irish fan could possibly be happy at supporting the worst team in the tournament, but some people still seem happy to portray the big story as “Ireland’s magnificent fans”. It isn’t. The real story is the disastrous state of Irish international soccer.
While Keane was correct, if rather tactless, in his remarks, he has also inadvertently provided a diversion from the real issue. Now it’s “Keane at it again!” So let’s ask the question; what went wrong?
Manager? Certainly he’s not great at the man-management. His sudden dumping of Kevin Foley in favour of Paul McShane was strange, as was his decision to play a lone striker in both matches. Playing players in unfamiliar positions and adopting an over-cautious attitude also contributed to the disaster. And what does Paul Green contribute apart from easy scoring opportunities for the opposition? Worryingly, Trapattoni’s not likely to change his approach. As I write, the team for Monday’s match versus Italy has been announced. It’s exactly the same as that which started against Croatia! The players who made the squad but haven’t even been given a minute on the field of play must be pretty annoyed.
The players? Certainly, with the exception of Keith Andrews, the players’ performance was not only below what was needed, but in many cases below what they’re capable of. The inability to control a ball or to string a few passes together was alarming. Serious consideration must be given to bringing new players into the squad for the World Cup qualifiers.
Mostly, however, the reason is that, like in many other aspects of life in this country, we don’t demand high standards. Also mirroring other aspects of society, too many people are afraid to take the hard decisions. Maybe now, after this disaster, the penny has dropped. Roy Keane was right; everybody involved needs to look at themselves and change their attitude. Maybe now the party really is over and the business of fixing Irish soccer will begin.
Let’s not accept mediocrity or ineptitude anymore.