Watching the UEFA Nations League opening game between Wales and the Republic of Ireland, it became clear very early on that two things were happening with both national sides.
First off, Wales manager Ryan Giggs should be commended for implementing his belief that Wales could be a match for any national team. Prior to Thursday night, the dragons only managed to score twice in the previous seven games with the Boys In Green. Last night they doubled that over 90 minutes.
“Credit to ourselves, not many teams could have lived with us tonight,” Giggs said after the match. “I think we’d have given anyone a game.”
Wales looked comfortable on the ball, got into incredible space off it. And played with so much belief and confidence that it made Ireland looks worse than we actually are.
The other thing that happened was with Ireland’s management team. Ireland were absolutely outplayed, outclassed and defeated in every aspect of the game. The style of football which Martin O’Neill has the lads playing seems somewhat stale. While one could argue that there’s not enough talent in the Irish squad, it doesn’t take away the fact of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are both, in my opinion, done in the Ireland dugout.
Roy Keane is someone in particular who the FAI would need to have a re-think about. It’s pretty astonishing that there is even rumours of him clashing with players to the point where they pull out of coming to play. Coupled with Martin O’Neill’s ineffective management methods, I feel that surely we are closing in on time for the duo.
But who could Ireland get in to whip the lads back into shape, you ask?
A good question. Somebody with a new philosophy for many of the upcoming younger players would be ideal. Somebody with the passion to do the job. I don’t know who this person is, but I know it needs to happen. But I say this from the outside the circle of the Irish football team. I say this as a fan who regularly goes to games. And I guess it’s easy for me to say so.
But it doesn’t take away the fact since last November, Ireland have won only one match which was a friendly against the USA in June. In that time, we have conceded thirteen goals in seven games, scoring just four. Is this acceptable? Who’s to blame? The players? The management?
You know who I think.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)