THE sad truth is; it could be a while before we see the Republic of Ireland as a force in international football again, because of the lack of quality in the squad.
Although I was not in favour of Stephen Kenny being recently given a contract until 2024, I don’t think it matters who is in charge of the team, because of the lack of quality options available.
What can never be questioned of any Irish side is the pride the players have in putting on the famous green shirt. The players cannot be accused of a lack of effort because they do give everything on the pitch.
Sadly, being able to run and produce glimpses of quality is not enough to be competitive at international level.
Ireland’s lack of quality is evident in the opportunities they create during a game.
When Ireland go forward, it’s rare that they cause the opposition defence problems. Ireland aren’t a dangerous side in attack, and that has to be down to lack of a proper centre-forward.
Callum Robinson does have qualities, but being a focal point of the team, or playing as a false number nine are not attributes he possesses.
He doesn’t have the passing ability to drop into midfield and complete a defence-splitting pass that someone like Harry Kane does, and his hold-up play is not good enough to be a player that players can hit the ball into from distance.
It’s not his fault he is playing there. He is being asked to do a job but unfortunately, he is not good enough.
There’s not many options for Kenny at the moment and I’m sure if he was available, Adam Idah would be the man leading the line for Ireland. He has shown that he can play the target man role, but has the pace to go in behind strikers.
One player who has shone for Ireland is Cork native Chiedozie Ogbene.
The Rotherham United player would benefit from having someone like Idah to play next to, as he is good at coming round the face of the striker when the ball is played into the front man, but unfortunately for Ogbene; there is no striker currently in the squad capable of holding the ball up.
He would also benefit from having a striker that is willing to run across defenders for crosses into the box. Ogbene is direct when he picks up the ball, and I feel would be more inclined to put crosses into the box when in good positions, if he knew players were making runs in the box for crosses.
If he did put a cross into the penalty area; he might be criticised for crossing the ball and giving up possession, even though it should be the striker that is blamed.
The former Cork City player’s reputation has risen over the past year. I’m sure he would have been thinking before these international fixtures, that if he performs to a certain level, then a transfer to a more competitive Championship club could be on the cards.
But his Irish teammates aren’t doing him any favours. He must also be frustrated by his teammates unwillingness to clip a ball in behind defenders, instead opting to always want to play to feet.
Ogbene makes excellent runs off the ball, and you can see him pointing to his teammates to play the ball to where he wants it, but they rarely do.
Not enough of the players want to do the hard work. There aren’t enough players willing to make runs into the box and ask questions of opposition defenders.
They are all willing to show for the ball to feet, which should be applauded, but they become predictable by doing the same thing, and make life easy for opposition players.
Kenny finds himself in a difficult position because he was given a contract extension based on his football philosophy, and the way he believes football should be played.
However, even he must see that although these Ireland players are capable of passing the ball on the floor, they are not capable of doing it to a standard where it is quick and purposeful and going to cause opposition teams problems.
Would it really do any harm if he were to experiment with Ireland being more direct and putting balls in behind footballs more? It might be the best way of getting three points against Scotland.