After a late equaliser by John O’Shea in Germany, Irish fans can start to believe that they could qualify for their second successive European Championships. That is something no Irish team has ever done. Despite the fact that Martin O’Neill’s squad (on paper at least) seems like one of the weakest squads that I can remember, Ireland are in a fantastic position to qualify for the competition.
Poland are not a fantastic team. Undoubtedly, they will cause problems and will prove a stern test, but in recent meetings between the sides Ireland have looked like the better team. Apart from a few extremely talented players, the rest of the team is very average. The same could be said about Ireland but lets not forget that two of our “better players” in McCarthy and Coleman missed the last two qualifying games.
Support for the national side has been waning since the closure of the old Lansdowne Road and although we don’t have the luxury of watching a team full of incredibly gifted footballers, we have a team with grit, determination and a willingness to work hard for the team. If that isn’t something for Irish fans to get behind then I’m not sure what is. I have no doubt that if Ireland get a decent result (a victory) against Scotland in November, that everyone will jump on the band wagon and support the men in green again. Which of course would be fantastic as games at home lately have been flat and dull. Perhaps a few extra Irish voices can spark some life into the side again so we can push on.
Even with the distraction of the circus clown in the dressing room, i.e. Roy Keane, O’Neill rallied his troops to battle in Germany and they done us proud. Mclean and McGeady looked very impressive and their ability to deliver inch perfect crosses is an invaluable asset to any side. Add James McCarthy to that and given a bit more experience, Jeff Hendrick could blossom into a fantastic ball playing centre midfielder. Then you have Seamus Coleman, one of the best full-backs in Europe at the moment. With him overlapping McGeady and vice-versa any team would fear our right flank.
Unfortunately Martin O’Neill doesn’t seem to rate Shane Long, but along with Robbie Keane, Jon Walters , Kevin Doyle and Wes Hoolahan – Ireland have some good options up front.
It is defensively that everyone seems to be worried about. Brian Lenihan who has never played a game for Hull was one of only 6 defenders named in Martin O’Neill’s squad. Our only real prospect at the back was Ciaran Clark but in the last few seasons he has been dropped and his progress as a player has been halted. Even with all of the defensive frailties that were pointed out before the Germany game, Ireland kept the Germans at bay for 70 minutes. Forde in goal was immense and John O’Shea was professional as ever at the back. I’m sure everyone supporting Irish football will be pleased that it was John who got the goal, and what a goal it was. He needed every last inch of that banana foot of his to hook that ball past the defender and into the net.
If people had no faith in the national side before, they should now. O’Neill and Keane have brought back the feel-good factor that has been missing for so long and after that budget yesterday, I think everyone in this country needed that little pick me up.