Sport Soccer

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Shambolic Irish give two fingers to the past

Published 08/10/2006 | 00:11

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SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. Shame on Steve Staunton who presided over the worst performance in Irish football history. Shame on John Delaney who put a boy in to do a man's job.

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Shame on Robbie Keane, one of the top strikers in the Premiership, who huffed and puffed and cribbed and carped and could not trouble a defence made up of players from domestic Cypriot clubs who wouldn't beat Shelbourne or Cork City.

Shame on Damien Duff, a multi-million pound winger, who could not get to the byline against players from those same clubs.

Shame on John O'Shea, a first teamer at one of the world's greatest clubs who sleepwalks through his duties for his country.

Shame on Richard Dunne, a rock of strength for Manchester City, a laughable liability for Ireland.

Shame on Steve Finnan, a Champions League full-back who let a bunch of unknowns play puck down his wing.

Shame on everyone involved with one of the worst nights in the history of Irish sport.

Actually let's not mince words here. This was the most disastrous performance in the history of Irish football.

It may, in fact, be the worst display by any Irish team in any sport.

It was a sickening display of absolute indifference to the national jersey by a bunch of Premiership prima donnas who might as well have taken the green shirts off and trampled them into the mud of the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.

That jersey has been worn over the years by great players, by Giles, by Whelan, by McGrath, by Keane. It has been worn by warriors, by Martin and Mulligan, Langan and Galvin.

It was sometimes worn by part-time poorly prepared players who were outclassed by teams of far greater accomplishment.

But, not even in those dark and difficult times, was the white flag so conspicuously displayed.

It was horrible to witness, a galling 90 minutes of disrespect to the great tradition of Irish soccer, a two fingers to the players of the past, the fans of the present day and the kids kicking around in their backyards who dream of starring in the future.

For all the wrong reasons this was one of the most memorable nights in the history of soccer in this country. It was Stuttgart in reverse. Cyprus went into this game on the back of a 6-1 defeat against Slovakia.

In six losses to Ireland they have scored a total of two goals while conceding 21.

Just last year Brian Kerr was pilloried when his Ireland team could only earn a 1-0 victory against these Mediterranean minnows. Yet Ireland made them look like Brazil.

We now find ourselves in the wonderful position of having to duke it out for last place with San Marino. This is a low the most pessimistic fan could not have expected. A selection drawn from the Eircom League would have done a far better job and certainly not been humiliated in this fashion.

It beggars belief that an Irish team could serve up this rubbish to be honest. There is Wednesday night's home match against the Czech Republic to come but, to some extent, that does not matter.

A loss to Cyprus pretty much kills off our qualification chances. And a manager capable of sending out a team like that does not deserve a job. It was impossible to imagine how we could have played any worse.

If he has any shred of decency Steve Staunton should resign, hand back the money he's already been given and waive his right to any pay-out under the terms of his contract. This won't happen of course.

Staunton's incompetence is not a matter of hindsight, it would have been a miracle if a manager with no experience at all had managed to find his feet in international football. We are in a hole and it's time to stop digging.

John Delaney, the man largely regarded to be behind the Staunton appointment, should also take a long look at himself in the mirror.

What happened in Nicosia is a lot more serious than a few bags of footballs not turning up in Saipan.

This is the ritual humiliation of our national team, a disaster of epic proportions.

He is the general responsible and should perhaps consider falling on his sword. Then again, anyone illogical enough to appoint a rookie to this job probably won't see much to panic about after a night like this.

Ireland were once something of a joke in European football circles. But, since Liam Touhy took charge in the early 1970s we commenced a slow climb to respectability. Touhy had nothing like the calibre of players available to Staunton but they scrapped and battled their way up the ladder and it has carried on from there.

The one constant in Irish football is that we have never lost to the countries at the very bottom rung of international football.

The Macedonia defeat was something of a disaster but the Balkan side are a lot better than the likes of Cyprus.

A few miles to our North, Lawrie Sanchez has put together a team which has beaten England and Spain and drawn with Portugal and, last night, Denmark.

Sanchez has a motley collection of lower division players to pick from yet there is a sense that when the North are in Windsor Park they will give it a lash.

That used to be the very least we did down here. But no more. Indolence rules the day. The heart has gone out of Irish soccer.

What we would give now for Mick McCarthy?

Actually the Kerr era is beginning to look like a bit of a golden age.

Jack it in Stan. And don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

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