Thursday 8 December 2016

Kevin Moran: This group is winnable - the Irish players should be buzzing

Kevin Moran

Published 26/07/2015 | 21:36

13 June 2015; The Republic of Ireland team break up after their team photo ahead of the game. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
13 June 2015; The Republic of Ireland team break up after their team photo ahead of the game. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

I IMAGINE every Irish international football player is buzzing this morning as they look at our qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup. We’re not guaranteed to get out of it, not by a long way.

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However we have a chance and, as a fourth seed, we could not have asked for anything more from the draw in Moscow last night.

Would the Irish lads want to be in Group G with Spain and Italy, or Group A with Holland and France?

Not on your life!

But this winnable one gives us a chance, no doubt about it.

We won’t be afraid of playing Wales or Austria, just as they won’t worry about us.

When we do face them it will all be down to who handles the occasion better on the night.

Yes, bagging the Serbians as the third seed was a bit of a bummer, but I’ll settle for that because we did very well from Pots 1 and 2.

I feel too that this attractive draw will put off any players who might be tempted, on age grounds, to quit international football when Euro 2016 ends for Ireland – be that in the Autumn or next Summer.

Lads like Jon Walters (above), Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady must be really energised by this draw.

I’ve always believed you played on as an international until the manager dropped you.

Read more: UEFA release the fixtures for Ireland's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign

Read more: Ireland's main rivals react: Chris Coleman looking forward to encounter with Boys in Green

But realistically could you blame those lads – or the others in their late 20s or early 30s – if they had done a runner had we been paired with Spain and Italy?

‘Not at all’ has to be the honest answer.

With the TV contracts now dealt with centrally by UEFA it didn’t matter who we got in the group in terms of bagging the growing amounts of money from that source.

Perhaps the FAI would have wanted a big name, England in particular, to fill the Aviva Stadium with supporters at least once during the qualifying campaign.

But my take on this group is simple: If we can start well and sniff at least getting to the play-offs, then the crowds will turn up in D4 over the next two years.

It’s as basic as that.

And on that score we did well last night.

Ireland have fallen down the football pecking order in Europe, that much is obvious.

But who knows? Maybe we will look back in a few years time and pinpoint this draw as the evening that the tide began to turn once again for Irish football.

Read Kevin Moran's column every Sunday only in the Sunday World

Read more: Luck of the draw for Ireland as World Cup hopes rise in St Petersburg

Read more: Republic of Ireland in 'very kind' World Cup draw

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