Monday 22 May 2017

Eamonn Dunphy's comments have about as much relevance on us as a fly on a windowsill

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Italia 90, we will be reliving all the action from that memorable World Cup

Eamon Dunphy criticised Ireland's performance against Egypt
Eamon Dunphy criticised Ireland's performance against Egypt

Noel Dunne reports from the Irish camp

"IN the cool, cool, cool of the evening ..." Jack Charlton does not sing like the late Bing Crosby, or Rosemary Clooney for that matter, but in the words of that immortal recording he is looking forward to the 9.0 p.m. (local time) kick-off against Holland in Palermo tomorrow.

"When we played them last time in the European Championships it was in the heat of the afternoon. That was good for them but not for us.

"I don't think they are as good now as they were then and they have done nothing in the competition so far to make me change my mind about that.

"I've always fancied another crack at them in the cool of the evening and now we've got our wish."

It seems that Charlton will once again name an unchanged team.

Big Jack said yesterday that all 22 players were available for selection, but when asked the inevitable question about Ronnie Whelan, he replied: "Ronnie is fit, but whether he is match fit is something else.

"He has not played for ten weeks and it might be a risk to throw him into a game like this. I would have to think very carefully on that one."

Charlton went on to say that in general he was satisfied with the balance of the side throughout the game against England. And he added, surprisingly, that the only thing which disappointed him against Egypt was that his strikers did not win enough ball in the air.

The Irish boss, still scathing in his estimation of the Egyptians, said: "I don't think people realise the difficulties we faced against a side that did not want to play.

"There always has to be a balance between not being able to afford to lose the game, and trying to win it. That balance was maintained throughout the team for 90 minutes.

"If we had scored we would have all been heroes; because we didn't we're all bums, which doesn't ring very true to me." Pressed on the criticism his team had received back home, Charlton snorted: "I've not heard any, except for the opinions of one guy that you all know whose remarks have about as much relevance on us as a fly on a windowsill.

"We are not going to alter our style, if we used something like a sweeper, for instance, it would be a total disaster. It's too late for us to change and we won't do it.

“We will inflict ourselves on the Dutch like we try to infliuct ourselves on everyone else we play. It's too late to change now."

Other than saying "we cannot afford to lose against the Dutch," Charlton refused to enter into the speculation game as to what the Irish need to qualify for the second round.

Privately, though, he is likely to spend a few quiet moments working out the permutations. These include:

- If we win Group F, it's next stop Verona to play the Group E runners-up next Tuesday (kick-off 8.0). That could mean another joust with Spain, with Belgium and Uruguay being our other possible opponents. Group E will be finalised on Thursday afternoon.

- If we finish second, Jack's Army will be on the march to Genoa to play Group B runners-up Romania next Monday (4.0).

- If we finish third, it's time to get out the calculators and hope that there are two other third-placed teams with fewer points or the same number of points but a worse goal difference.

- If things are deadlocked, goals scored will decide the issue.

- After that, it will be down to hoping for the luck of the Irish to hold in the drawing of lots in Rome on Thursday night.

If Ireland are one of the four third-placed to qualify for the second round, we will play next Monday against either West Germany in Milan (8.0) or the Group C winners (likely to be Brazil) in Turin (4.0).

At least Charlton and his players will go into the Dutch match knowing what the third-placed team in Group F has to do to earn a place in the second round, for all the other groups will be finished their matches by then.

One way or another, though, the Irish camp and its army of supporters will be on a knife edge. Thursday could be the longest day in more ways than one.

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