Tag: Republic of Ireland

Ireland: O’Neill and Keane, The Rollercoaster Ride Begins

I’M GETTING OLD – EPISODE 94. I wasn’t looking at the TV when Marian Pahars’ name was first mentioned. But the memories were instant.Into the mind’s eye came the diminutive “Latvian Michael Owen” (which dates the reminiscence) being submerged by fans at The Dell (which dates it again) as he celebrated his first Southampton goal. “Who’s he playing for now?” I thought, as my eyes turned screen-wards to see new Ireland boss Martin O’Neill greeting a slightly crumpled little middle-aged man in a slightly crumpled little middle-aged suit. “Marian Pahars, the new Latvian coach,” the Sky TV commentator said. And I died a little inside. Pahars was in charge of a Latvian side so poor even Sky’s Ray Houghton said so, live on-air – not how Sky co-commentators are supposed to promote their ‘product.’ As such, they were ideal opposition for the dawning of a new era in Irish international football – akin to the “cannon-fodder” opposition which, in boxing, is given to a successful amateur for his first fight as a pro. To be fair, O’Neill’s (& Roy Keane’s) Ireland could have done almost nothing more than they did against the Latvians – convincingly beat them with a bit of a swagger. If the latter stages of Ireland’s 0-0 draw in Poland could have been a straight lift from the Giovanni Trapattoni era, there was still plenty of...

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O’Neill & Keane – The Dream Team?

Adrian Chiles looked pleased as he was introducing ITV’s Champions League coverage in San Sebastian on Tuesday, stood alongside Ireland’s new management team, Martin O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane. He was even confident/brave enough to liken them to “Laurel and Hardy,” with Keane stood well within arms-reach (Lee Dixon offered “dumb and dumber”, which was braver/dafter still). Chiles will almost certainly be bidding a farewell of sorts to charmless pundit Keane, now that the Corkman has decided that being Ireland’s assistant manager is a better bet than watching England scuff their way through qualifying campaigns. Keane will, of course, show the commitment to his new role that he’s so publicly and combatively demanded of others in Ireland’s set-up. So Keane will not emulate Gordon Strachan, who currently combines ITV punditry with managing Scotland. Unless Keane is some sort of hypocrite. And anyone reading Keane: My Autobiography, written about a 30-year-old Keane, while Roy was raging about “how many books (Ferguson) has written now” will know that he doesn’t do hypocrisy. To some of us, Keane as Ireland’s number two (a description with more than one meaning) is a price worth paying for O’Neill becoming Ireland’s number one. The actual price that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have paid is another matter, of course. Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli’s contracts were negotiated in 2008 at the fag-end of Ireland’s...

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The Republic of Ireland: International Football As Tragi-Comedy

Appearances can deceive greatly. On Sunday, I watched my team – who have had such a good start to the season that they are starting to becomeperennially known as “high-flying Kingstonian” – beat Ryman League strugglers Thamesmead Town by a largely expected margin of 4-1. The Thamesmead goalkeeper, the delightfully-named Bob Budd, was responsible for the score. The score not being 8-1 (EIGHT-BLOODY-ONE!!), that is. As I sub-edit the Non-League Paper’s Ryman League Premier Division page, not only am I responsible for all those crap headlines (“Bury buried,” “Rocks rocked” etc…) but I was also ready for Budd’s terrific display of shot-stopping. His name featured heavily in Mead match reports, and not just from Mead’s own NLP reporter. So his athletic tendency to get in the way of goalbound shots and headers was less disconcerting to me than to many other Ks fans who might have clocked a scruffily-attired keeper and thought, “no wonder they’re bottom,” although, it must be added that despite the combination of terrific goalkeeper and relegation candidature, Mead looked a mid-way decent side. Budd was dressed like a Ray Clemence tribute-act, as in the yellow-shirted keeper who shared England duties with Peter Shilton throughout the mid-to-late 1970s. Budd’s yellow shirt looked faded and fractionally too big for him, giving the unfair impression of a Sunday league goalkeeper. And I thought of Budd when I first...

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Euro 2012: Group C – The Final Day

Despite Group C containing three of its best teams, the tension of the final games nearly unravelled the quality with which Spain, Italy and Croatia have sprinkled this tournament to date. Spain’s light blue kit was, dare I say it, a bit scruffy, i.e. it suited players such as the Sergios Ramos and Busquets. They produced, for them anyway, a performance to match. And this made for one of the flattest games of the tournament to date. It was well-documented that a 2-2 draw would have knocked Italy out regardless of their result, just as it did in 2004 when Giovanni Trapattoni’s team went home despite being unbeaten with five points. But if Croatia and Spain had finished 2-2 after that first-half the fix would all-too obviously have been in. Among Spain’s best first-half efforts were long-range strikes by Ramos and his centre-back partner Gerard Pique, which spoke volumes. And Croatia would have gone into the break thinking “job well done,” especially with the shock news that Ireland were still 0-0 with Italy after five minutes. Indeed, Slaven Bilic’s side should have been ahead. The tournament hasn’t overly-suffered from officious officials. But their mistakes have been doozies. And Ramos’s studs-up leap at Mario Mandzukic was one of those tackles which “would have been a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch”, as ITV’s Craig Burley dutifully noted. Actually, Burley’s first...

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Euro 2012: Spain 4-0 Republic Of Ireland

Like they needed the help. Spain were only ever going to be denied victory over Ireland by the sort of rearguard action Giovanni Trapattoni’s men produced in the qualifying group game against Russia in Moscow. But whereas in Moscow the ball usually ended up rebounding off centre-back Richard Dunne’s arse, in Poznan, centre-back Sean St. Ledger ended up on his arse so often that you suspected he was wearing plimsolls. It’s these little details which make the difference at international level. Having spent much of the day pondering the incongruity of midfield match-ups such as Andres Iniesta against Keith Andrews and Xabi Alonso against Glenn Whelan, what transpired in Gdansk should not have been any sort of shock. Ordinarily, I’d have been admiring the speed and fluidity of Spain’s passing. Iniesta’s runs at Italy’s defence are probably my highlight of the tournament to date. But here, my reaction was frustration and fear, not least because the breathtaking close control Iniesta produced against the Italians simply wasn’t required against Ireland, his opponents simply didn’t get near enough to him. If you were in the mood for national stereotyping, you’d imagine that of all the languages in the world, Italian must have the most words for “keep it tight at the back in the early stages.” Yet they must all have deserted Trapattoni in Poland. It is easy to describe all...

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