Stephen Hunt: 'The players are saying the right things, now they have to back it up'
If Ireland lose heavily in Denmark tomorrow night, I fear for manager Martin O'Neill and his coaching staff. We are five years into his reign and have...
If Ireland lose heavily in Denmark tomorrow night, I fear for manager Martin O'Neill and his coaching staff. We are five years into his reign and have...
The smile was back on Jose Mourinho's face in Turin and that can only be good news for Manchester United and their supporters, and bad news for...
If, as seems increasingly likely, Declan Rice declares for England and goes on to wear the white shirt, it will be massive kick in the teeth for...
When the last transfer window closed, Tottenham Hotspur became the first club not to sign a single player. With the move from Wembley to the...
These are very testing times for Irish football. These are testing times for Martin O'Neill, his assistant, the players and the supporters. Trying...
Wayne Hennessey is a good goalkeeper but the Wales number one is no Manuel Neuer, Ederson or Alisson. We made him look so good on Thursday night that my blood was boiling when I saw him rolling his foot over the ball from back passes, giving Ireland players the eyes and playing it between the lines. It summed up our night and our problems.
We need to give Declan Rice time to breathe, make the right decision on his international future and hopefully he will still choose to play for the Republic of Ireland. But he does need to make his mind up soon.
The signing of Irish teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu by Manchester City is terrific news for the boy, for Shamrock Rovers and their academy and coaches and hopefully, in the long run, for Irish football.
We had a tale of two central midfielders in one city last week, starring the much-loved Kevin De Bruyne, the unloved Paul Pogba, and their post-World Cup adventures.
This is the day many Arsenal fans have been looking forward to for years. Too many years, sadly. And if they are hoping for signs that the Arsene Wenger era is over, I think we have seen them under Unai Emery already.
Here is a question for you. If Lionel Messi does not win the World Cup with Argentina can he be classed as the game's greatest player? Pele won it, Diego Maradona won it, and inspired their nations to...
Another season over. The lads can head off on their holidays and enjoy the next few weeks of rest and relaxation. But when the World Cup finals start,...
Sergio Ramos is one of the most cynical players to have played the game. And if you play on the edge and go out to do the maximum amount of damage, eventually you will succeed.
Will Chelsea's two FA Cup winners still be at Stamford Bridge next season or have Eden Hazard and Antonio Conte said farewell? If they have...
Ferrybank v Rathgormack under 11s, Waterford, 1991. Unless I'm mistaken this was the first time I encountered John Francis O'Shea. By that stage of my fledgling career, I was already used to...
From experience, I always feel that in the opening stages of a competitive international it's important to unsettle the opposition, especially if they are missing big players like Denmark were last night.
Settle in. This is going to be another rollercoaster ride. Manchester City and Liverpool going at full pelt, with so many match-winners on show, so many capable of producing that moment of breathtaking brilliance - like Daniel Sturridge at Chelsea last week. And he'll be on the bench today.
Manchester United and Jose Mourinho desperately need a win in the Champions League on Tuesday after the defeat at West Ham yesterday. If they lose that, I don't think the manager will be far away from getting the sack.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Ruud Dokter and he said there is no right or wrong path to the Irish senior team for a talented underage boy in Ireland. But what we now have is a structure in place which is giving us a chance of developing more of these players into internationals.
If the assistant manager of Ireland spoke to me the way Roy Keane is alleged to have spoken to Harry Arter, there is absolutely no way it would stop me from playing for my country. If anything it would inspire me to prove him wrong and I would be happy to keep coming back for more.
If hurling has owned the summer then there is the temptation to claim that the Premier League is back this week to take its place as sport's number one attraction. Some of us can sit back and enjoy all sports.
England's DNA? It always used to be 'Did Not Achieve', but with younger England teams winning tournaments over the last couple of years and Gareth Southgate's new-look youthful team reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, the new blueprint seems to be working.
Brazil are not supposed to go out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals. Every four years we expect them to turn on the style, entertain us and win the competition. And every four years, they let us down.
There are obviously many world-class players on show in Russia but are there any world-class coaches out there? Spain sacked their manager on the eve of the finals and the team, the style of play and their brilliance has stayed the same under Fernando Hierro. If the departure of Julen Lopetegui to Real Madrid caused turmoil in the Spanish camp, you can't see it in their performances so far.
Roy Keane's exit from the 2002 World Cup will remain one of the biggest stories and shocks in Ireland's sporting history. It was a massive story then and it still splits debate now. Globally, however, given what Spain have achieved over the last couple of decades, the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of these finals is much bigger. And potentially much worse.
With the Champions League final sorted, Jurgen Klopp will today be expecting his Liverpool players to get the next job done in the Premier League and qualify for next season's competition. They are a better side than Chelsea and they should finish above them.
Roma may have been the draw Liverpool supporters wanted, but there is no danger of complacency with Jurgen Klopp. He will be well aware of the dangers posed by Italian opposition - just look at what Roma did to Barcelona. Look at what Juventus did to Tottenham. They don't know when they're beaten.
My former club Wolverhampton Wanderers are the best Championship team I have seen and they will be a top-10 Premier League club next season.
They may not have remained unbeaten like the Arsenal Invincibles, they may not win the quadruple or even the treble like Manchester United, but make no mistake, this Manchester City team is one of the best of the Premier League era.
Looking at England in their two friendlies during the international break, they will be serious contenders for this summer's World Cup. Can they win it? Yes, 100 per cent. The big question is will they be able to handle the pressure.
When I heard the news earlier this week that Declan Rice and Liam Kelly had declared their international intentions, I was full of admiration for the pair of them, even if it was for different reasons.
Forget all the world-class attacking talent that is going to be on show for both teams in the Champions League quarter-final matches between Liverpool and Manchester City. It is a defender who could make all the difference.
The Republic of Ireland's game in Turkey at the end of the month is another significant step for the five young players who have been named in Martin O'Neill's squad and an opportunity to win another cap for those with just a handful to their names.
VAR - Video Assisting Referee - is not working in its current format and I cannot see how it can be improved and quickened up to engage with supporters at a game and assist referees to make the right decisions.
Paul Pogba will be at Manchester United for years to come and can still prove himself to be one of the club's great midfielders. I am not so sure Jose Mourinho will be around for as long.
Five teams from the Premier League in the last 16 of the Champions League and I am expecting all of them to progress to the quarter-finals. Last season Leicester were the only English team in the last eight.
Riyad Mahrez has done the right thing and gone back to work, committed himself to Leicester again. The only way he can sort his head right and get back on track is on the training ground and back in the Leicester team.
They did spend money but, compared to the rest of the top six, with the notable exception of Chelsea, it was a quiet January transfer window for Tottenham Hotspur. The next one in the summer promises to be their most challenging.
The Premier League is the best league in the world, so it comes as no great surprise that it makes the most money by a few million country miles. And as long as we never lose the high-tempo game, which attracts the stars and fills the stadiums, it will remain the most attractive to the global audience.
Like Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, I was surprised that the deal to swap Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan between Arsenal and Manchester United did not go through in time for the two players to make their debuts at their new clubs this weekend.
Martin O'Neill and the FAI will want to carry on as if nothing has happened this week but it would not surprise me if the Republic of Ireland have a new manager very shortly.
They were team-mates for Reading, Wolves and the Republic of Ireland, playing more than 200 games together, they were neighbours and now they are family. After a golf lesson with professional Jamie O'Sullivan at Rosslare Golf Club, Colin Young sat down with Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle as the pair reminisced and, for the first time, Doyle revealed the full story behind his decision to retire due...
I'm sitting in a box in Croke Park at the Waterford-Cork semi-final with Roy Keane down the way and nearby two Galway players, Joe Canning and the captain David Burke.
Tunnel bust-ups happen all the time, just like training-ground punch-ups or arguments in the dressing-room between good team-mates which turn into lifelong resentments. I've seen managers pick on a player at half-time and it's turned into a full-on, stand-up, nose-to-nose, screaming match where they've threatened to kill each other.
Within seconds of Robbie Brady stretching into that tackle and hitting Harry Maguire, he will have known he had suffered a serious injury. Even through all the adrenaline, the pain, the discomfort, the twinges and that initial, horrible feeling that something is not right will have hit him. And hit him hard.
If Martin O'Neill decides to walk away from the Republic of Ireland job - and he has earned the right to make that decision - then I fear we may have missed out on the ideal replacement. Our potential loss could be Everton's gain.
Martin O'Neill has earned the right to continue as Republic of Ireland manager and if he still wants the job then he should be allowed to do so. I don't see any obvious alternative and I don't see anyone getting anything more out of the squad.
Buckle up, put your heart rate monitor on it's about to get very tense. If you thought last night in Copenhagen was edgy it was only the tip of the iceberg.
These are the six figures who I think will be key to the outcome of next week's play-offs . . .
Denmark have some very good players, but Christian Eriksen is their Gareth Bale. I can pay the Spurs midfielder no higher compliment than that. Bale has the pace, Eriksen is technically better. And Ireland have to find a way to stop him, as we did with Bale in Dublin.
The celebrations in the Irish dressing room after the Wales game may have seemed over the top and presumptuous, but football highs don't come around very often, and it was no doubt a combination of enjoyment and relief.
Like the Ireland manager, Martin O'Neill, I have said all along that I thought this World Cup group would come down to the final game in Cardiff. And like Martin, I believe we can win tomorrow and reach the play-offs.
It might take years before we see a significant improvement in the senior team with young naturally-gifted footballers in every position, but the changes to improve underage football development in Ireland are a move in the right direction.
On the day I signed for Reading, I was introduced to a young Irish kid called Kevin Doyle. I had been in England for eight years, whereas he had just joined the club from Cork City after a couple of years in the League of Ireland.
As another qualifying campaign reaches its conclusion, inevitably we start to look at who will be the Ireland manager moving on to the qualification for the Euro finals in 2020 and beyond.
Our crucial game against Wales next month is going to be a tight, heated affair, like a local derby, and it might be that we will need a surprise package to come off the bench to win it for Ireland. And that man could be Sean Maguire.
If there is one thing that will have hurt and disappointed Martin O'Neill more than anything from the Serbia defeat, it is that we looked like a desperate side for the last five minutes. But we are not. This team has shown, like against Italy, that they are a quality side.
There will be plenty of cheap shots aimed at the Ireland team in the run-up to Tuesday's massive game against Serbia in Dublin but Martin O'Neill and his players just need a sense of calm in the camp and a quiet determination to prove people wrong.
With almost a full week of build-up before the return to the World Cup qualifiers, the Republic of Ireland squad have plenty of time to be prepared for a tricky trip to Georgia at a strange time of the season.
There have not been many better centre forwards in the Premier League era than Diego Costa. If, or when, he gets his move back to Atletico Madrid, he is going to be sorely missed by the champions.
I know we've missed it but when the Premier League kick-off came around at Arsenal on Friday night, I wasn't really up for it. My mind was on the second round of the USPGA and today's hurling semi-final. But they had me in two minutes.
As we come to terms with the mind-boggling world record transfer of Neymar, it is worth asking how much impact it will have on the outcome of the Premier League title race.
The transfer window is well and truly open. Two goalkeepers have joined Manchester City and Everton for a combined £64m. The madness has begun.
Like every international coach, one frustration for Martin O'Neill must be that he does not have even a small percentage of the time with his Ireland players that he would as a club manager.
No-ONE will be particularly worried about the outcome of the second friendly today when Uruguay come to town, but it would be nice for Martin O’Neill and the team to get a positive performance and result before the big one next Sunday.
A month is a long time to keep players fully fit, concentrated and in peak condition — mentally and physically — for an important World Cup qualifier and that will have been one of Martin O’Neill’s biggest challenges of the last few weeks.
A month is a long time to keep players fully fit, concentrated and in peak condition - mentally and physically - for an important World Cup qualifier and that will have been one of Martin O'Neill's biggest challenges of the last few weeks.
At the start of season I backed Jurgen Klopp to lift the Premier League title in his first full season at Liverpool. Even when they faltered at New Year and failed to win when Sadio Mane played in the African Cup of Nations in January, I continued to believe they would do it.
If any manager can deal with the pressures of a relegation survival battle, it is the Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce - who has, until this season at least, never been relegated from the Premier League.
MARCUS HAHNEMANN was our goalkeeper at Reading in the Premier League. He was not young, he had worked hard to get to the best league in the world. And when he was not happy, everyone knew about it.
After six years battling against relegation from the Premier League with six different managers, Sunderland were finally relegated from the top flight yesterday.
The two managers coming head to head in today's FA Cup semi-finals will both be looking to win the competition to ease the pressure; one to win a trophy in his first Premier League season, and the other one in what I expect to be his last.
The modern-day club captain no longer needs to be the old-fashioned, aggressive ranter and raver whose main method of leading by example was to go full force into battle and fly into every tackle.
It doesn't matter whether you are a seasoned old pro with a few months left on a Premier League deal or a young lad at a League Two club hoping to get your first contract, the pressure is really on at this time of the season.
It is embarrassing. It is petty. It tarnishes the FAI, it tarnishes Everton, and it tarnishes the supporters from Ireland who support Everton.
If any player is going to come back stronger from a serious leg break, Seamus Coleman is your man. There are not many more determined and strong-willed young lads in the game.
When I was in my second Premier League season with Reading, playing well and in the Ireland squad, Tottenham were one of the teams sniffing around.
When Wolves played Arsenal a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a private conversation with Arsene Wenger. At the time, it was very much appreciated and I have never forgotten it.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United on a free transfer in the summer, I was not convinced he would live up to the hype and compete at the highest level every week in the Premier League. The whole 'call me Zlatan' thing never sat comfortably with me.
After news came through of Claudio Ranieri's sacking as Leicester City manager on Thursday night, it took me several hours to get my head around it.
When the Six Nations kicks into gear, I like it - because you know it is the time of year when results really matter in football and teams at the top and bottom are under intense pressure. This is when the league starts and when the cup competitions are knocked into shape.
Oh, to be young and foolish again. Oh, to be Harry Kane.
Recent results mean Manchester United's trip to Leicester City today is seen as a must-win game for both, but that might not be true. Bear with me, but it might actually be the best thing for both clubs for United to win - and for Leicester to be left sitting in that relegation zone for a bit.
As the January window comes to a close, much of the hype is about deadline day, but it's not actually like that for those at the centre of it. If you're a footballer, it's the day before that's the bigger event. That's why tomorrow will be more tense for a lot of players. That is when things will start stirring, when you'll really know whether a move might be on.
There was one moment in my career when I could feasibly have done a Diego Costa or a Dimitri Payet - if I was that type of player. It was the January window in 2008 and I had the chance to go to Sunderland under Roy Keane. I had even been visualising it, I was ready for it, but Reading wouldn't let me go.
On Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho did something I used to absolutely hate as a player, but that I can totally understand ahead of today's game at Old Trafford. It didn't actually surprise me that he criticised some of the Manchester United players for over-celebrating their first goal against Hull City. I would say that, no matter how they played, he had something like that planned.
In looking through my own appearance history in the FA Cup, to try and jog my memory for this column on how players feel about the competition, one thing stands out - and it annoys me. It annoys me how my clubs prioritised the league so much, at the expense of the FA Cup.
One of the most important pointers for what happens in football in 2017 might well have come in the last few days of 2016. I was very impressed with Cristiano Ronaldo's decision to turn down an astronomical deal to go to China. Even if there was an element of PR behind it, I think it sends a very loud message and sets a significant example in what is likely to be one of the biggest stories...
There's one thing that stands out for me from all my years of experience in England's famous Christmas schedule. It would be the effect on the body, and the stomach - but not because of the turkey dinner or anything like that. It was because I used to have my own pre-match routine that would be repeated a little too often in too short a time. If it was a 3.0pm game, I'd have two coffees in the morning, a thing called Phase 1, that was around the same as six or seven coffees, although I eventually replaced that with Red Bull, and then I might take some caffeine tablets too.
Every manager I played under had the same set-piece, and it was so simple, but I would use it to cause a lot of difficulties for Pep Guardiola and Claudio Bravo.
I used to absolutely hate my manager at Brentford, Martin Allen. No word of a lie, there were times when I wanted to leave the foot in when training. It was the accumulated anger and frustration of not playing, because he just didn't take to me. No matter what I did, or what I tried, he just threw it back in my face. I could never change his mind.
As I watched all the news come through from the tragic Chapecoense air crash in the last week, I was already getting quite upset about it - especially with the fact they were footballers - and then there was one bit of it that really knocked me out. It was the footage of the team celebrating in the dressing room after their semi-final.
If you were to properly lay it out - regardless of whatever else is happening in the world - there probably haven't been too many years in Irish football history as good as 2016, even from the really great times. The fact that we moved up 10 places in the Fifa world rankings announced last week is a nice little sign-off. It reflects how the team have built on the genuine success of Euro 2016,...
I was thrilled on Thursday when Jurgen Klopp defended Wayne Rooney about having a drink, because I think it was an important reminder that players are human - and I'll give you an example of just how human.
While formations are good and well in the modern game, ultimately men win football matches and that was proven last night in Vienna.
There is a single team selection that will tell us what Martin O'Neill really wants and thinks he can get from the Austria game, and you can probably guess who it revolves around. If O'Neill picks Wes Hoolahan, he fancies he can beat them man for man and win the match. If he doesn't pick Wes, you can tell he'll be trying to get a result in a more calculated way - and that he respects Austria.
I very much doubt that Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho jumped into a freezing river and swam to the other side to try and jolt their teams out of recent bad form, but that was exactly what I encountered with pretty much the first poor spell of my career.
As Jose Mourinho comes out of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge today, I can imagine he'll be respectful but business-like, maybe giving a little gesture to his old crowd but not much more than that . . . and underneath it all being utterly driven to get a result. His former players will be just as highly motivated, though, and the game will be telling in that it will immediately indicate which Chelsea...
After all that, don't be surprised to see Wayne Rooney back in the Manchester United starting XI at Anfield tomorrow night. It would be classic Jose Mourinho to bring him back, to try and get a positive reaction out of what has been a bad few weeks for Rooney.
With the way Martin O'Neill and James McClean publicly spoke after Moldova, I'm willing to bet the manager used the press as pre-match motivation. It just felt like it fed down from the top.
If there's one thing that Thursday night established, and that needs to be properly addressed starting with tonight against Moldova, it's that Ireland are still a better team without the ball.
This might sound a bit strange but, for in my time, a fixture with Georgia always put a bit of fear into your mind. That is because it is precisely the sort of game that doesn't suit us. The onus is on us. It is a game that we are expected to win but it is also one that you can't win in third gear, unlike against other supposedly lesser sides. You know you have to be effective in your performance, and ultra-professional.
I remember just before we travelled to Bulgaria with Ireland in 2009 under Giovanni Trapattoni, John O'Shea had joined up with the squad after playing in big Champions League match against Barcelona, and everyone was asking him about it.
If I was manager of Manchester United, I would do what Jose Mourinho is doing now and continue to pick Wayne Rooney - but only because I would be looking to sell him. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's the plan.
I've never seen anything in top-level football like what's happening with Martin O'Neill's contract situation. The fact that the World Cup campaign has already started and he hasn't signed a deal is bizarre, peculiar and downright sloppy from the FAI, and it leads to a lot of questions way beyond the reason why he actually hasn't put pen to paper.
There was a moment last week that I think will have meant much more to the Irish players than anyone realised, and showed me that Martin O'Neill is fully focused and means business; that he's ready to try and win this group.
I never really saw eye to eye with Robbie Keane, but then we probably didn't get off to the best of starts. He was at his peak when I first came onto the international scene in 2007, whereas I was a bit raw in terms of knowing the game. From the way I came up through the lower leagues, I didn't feel I had time to respect hierarchies.
As I took my seat in Lansdowne Road on Wednesday for Dundalk's Champions League match with Legia Warsaw, I felt like a bit of a glory-hunter. The issue of attendance and bandwagons has been one of many debates that has grown out of this, and it got me thinking about the wider question of what this could mean for the League of Ireland - and the national team.
It's been another week when Jose Mourinho's comments have attracted headlines and, as tiresome and trivial as that pantomime can sometimes seem, here's a little secret: When you're a player in an opposition team set to take on one of his sides - as is the case with Bournemouth today - you are looking out for what he's going to say. You want to know. It does add something.
This has been a strange few weeks for me. For the first time in my adult life I am not part of pre-season training. I am not being told what to do and then having to do it or run the risk of being fined - and worse, ridiculed by team-mates for being fined.
A few years ago, I found myself in exactly the situation a few of the French players are going to be in tonight, even if it wasn't on the same grand stage. Cristiano Ronaldo was running to get the ball in open play, and couldn't see me coming.
Ireland have had a Euro 2016 to be proud of but it's impossible not to imagine how exciting it would be to be in Iceland's situation today, in a quarter-final we of course could have played in. Iceland have almost had our 1988 and 1990 rolled into one, and now have such a chance at making even more history.
There's a little story you might not know from the night in Paris in 2009, that could yet be a relevant factor in today's game and influence whether we can really build on Wednesday's massive result with something even more historic.
As bad as the whole day felt yesterday and as crushing as the defeat was, I still think the scale of it comes down to a few individual failings rather than any collective issue - and there is still genuine hope for the Italian game on Wednesday.
By the time the Irish players get down to breakfast this morning, they’ll have already felt a different atmosphere around the camp, that extra tension you only feel on the eve of a big game.