Ireland progression in question during indifferent O’Neill reign
Under former boss Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland reached Euro 2012 and the Italian was rewarded with a two-year contract for his contributions but, after exiting in the group stages and haplessly failing to reach last summer’s World Cup, the veteran parted company.
Martin O’Neill was the man brought in to change the fortunes and attitude within the Irish set-up, after losing all three Euro 2012 games and scoring just a single goal, an embarrassing display in Poland which saw fans passionately call for a new boss.
The current Derry-born boss gained a reputation for delivering results over a hugely successful five-year spell with Glasgow giants Celtic, and then overseeing Aston Villa’s rejuvenation in the Premier League for a further four seasons.
Trusted with reviving the Boys in Green, O’Neill, along with the help of assistant Roy Keane, the current coaches have struggled to genuinely make an evident impact on Ireland’s international set-up, despite early promise and several hopeful results against the likes of Germany in Euro 2016 qualifying (13/5 with Coral to qualify).
Although, looking past last minute goals in their ugly qualifying campaign against Germany, Georgia and Poland, Ireland’s performances throughout each game under O’Neill’s reign hasn’t exactly been dominant, or even slightly encouraging for the Irish faithful to be hopeful.
When Trapattoni departed, his achievements were commended by even the most critical onlooker, but his old-fashioned and outdated team selections and tactical approaches were welcomingly forgotten about.
However, memories of those previously poor showings under the experienced Italian are quickly flooding back as Ireland look similarly under-par during O’Neill’s tenure, especially in recent clashes with close rivals England and Scotland.
A goalless stalemate with the Three Lions was brushed off as a one-off underwhelming showing, because of the enormity of the next qualifying encounter with the Scots, but even Gordon Strachan must have expected a sterner test in the eventual 1-1 Dublin draw.
O’Neill’s trusty assistant Keane; who is definitely the more intimidating half of this good cop, bad cop coaching set-up, doesn’t get off either, with the former stalwart Irish skipper appearing to have little or no impact on the current crop of player’s attitude and determination.
When the former Manchester United captain was appointed, everyone expected there to be no nonsense and a more aggressive approach driven into each and every player that was lucky enough to don the green of their country, but so far there has been only glimpses of such grit.
Once Trapattoni’s tenure ended, it saw the likes of Sean St Ledger and Keith Andrews also leave the side, much to the delight of the Irish faithful, with O’Neill’s introduction seemingly signalling an encouraging switch in personnel and approach.
Apart from the inclusion and various debuts handed to several rising stars or late bloomers, such as Bournemouth’s promising Harry Arter (5/4 to stay up in 2015/16) and Norwich City playmaker Wes Hoolahan (11/10), have performances under O’Neill really been any better than that of Trapattoni’s set-up?
With players like Shane Long available in attack, O’Neill instead opted to call upon a striker who has never struck on the international stage in Daryl Murphy, and a more workman-like forward in Jonathan Walters, while Robbie Keane continues to be relied on heavily for goals.
The under-fire boss has baffled fans and pundits alike with his obscure team selections, with former Ireland international John Giles recently claiming O’Neill has been sending his teams out “into the unkown”.
If O’Neill is to somehow reverse the Irish fortunes and oversee an incredible comeback to qualify for Euro 2016 in France next summer, he will need to instill a rejuvenated sense of determination and more disciplined set-up, or miss out on yet another international competition.