Saturday 24 June 2017

We were lost without Hoolahan - Five things we learned from defeat in Poland

Ireland's Wes Hoolahan in action with Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski
Action Images via Reuters / Adam Holt
Livepic
EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Ireland's Wes Hoolahan in action with Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski Action Images via Reuters / Adam Holt Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

John Fallon

Ireland look a different team without Wes Hoolahan, Lewandowski is very much the real deal - Five things we learned from Ireland's defeat in Poland.

IT GETS MESSY WITHOUT WESSI:

Wes Hoolahan’s heel was sore but so too were Ireland at his unavailability from the start.

After finally convincing an Irish manager of his readiness for the international circuit, what a shame it was for the Dubliner to miss out on the climax of a campaign he shone in.

Ireland were a shadow of the team that beat Germany without their playmaker and the reliance on a 33-year-old for inspiration highlights the folly of ignoring the technician for all those years.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI IS THE REAL DEAL:

As if his status needed validation, the shining light of European football in 2015 went and did the business again. And this time the pain was inflicted on Ireland, completing a full house of Group D rivals he’d scored against.

John O’Shea and Richard Keogh were chasing shadows from early on with the movement of the Bayern Munich goal machine, his presence alone causing havoc in the Irish rearguard.

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Alaba destroyed Ireland’s World Cup ambitions, another world class proved a scourge in this campaign.

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11 October 2015; Glenn Whelan, Republic of Ireland, in action against Robert Lewandowski, Poland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Poland v Republic of Ireland. Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

ROY KEANE HAS LOST NONE OF HIS FIRE:

From the outset, Martin O’Neill’s assistant seemed more animated than his boss, advancing to the touchline to bark instructions.

Not even the officials were spared Keane’s ire. When Michel Pazdan sent Shane Long sprawling in the first half, the Corkman was out of his seat and jabbing his finger towards a fourth official protesting his ignorance.

One felt it was sort of match Keane the player was in his element.

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10 October 2015; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill with assistant manager Roy Keane, during squad training. Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

FRESH BLOOD STILL NEEDED:

Even without the ageing Robbie Keane and Shay Given in the line-up, the average age of Ireland’s starting team amounted to near 28.

Seamus Coleman turning 27 didn’t help that calculation but the worry remains about the ability of John O’Shea and Jon Walters to last another campaign.

Worse still, those granted starts in recent games such as Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick really need to be playing higher than Championship level if Ireland are serious about challenging Serbia and Wales for the one guaranteed ticket from next year’s World Cup qualification campaign.

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11 October 2015; Seamus Coleman, Republic of Ireland, in action against Grzegorz Krychowiak, Poland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Poland v Republic of Ireland. Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

POLISH FANS ADORE THE IRISH:

From the time Irish fans arrived in Warsaw on Friday morning, replete with a spring in their steps from the previous night’s heroics against Germany, the Polish public put out the red map.

Memories of the supporters’ impact from Euro 2012 remain and every pub, club and restaurant were glad of their return.

Competition between the sets of fans inside the ground was fierce, albeit the sea of red and white dominated the vast expanse of the impressive national stadium situated on the banks of the River Vistula.

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