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Ireland should turn up and shut up


THE silly season in the media world kicks in at some nebulous time in July and generally lasts into September or longer if the weather is good. It's November now and it looks like we're going into extra-time.

The anointing of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as the new Ireland management team has brought all sorts of noisemakers out of the woodwork, but the most interesting and indeed entertaining thing to watch now is the very gentle rain of comments emanating from our best players.

Apart from David Forde, who opened up to the Herald this week about the new management team, there has been mostly silence and a scatter of tweets.

Caution is never a bad watchword when things are in flux and the wrong word or deed now could have an impact for the next two years. Just ask Andy Reid.

One man, however, did find time in his schedule to offer his thoughts. Stephen Ireland bolted from the pack and was one of the first into bat. Maybe his heart quickened at the notion that a famous Corkman, at least as famous as himself, will have some influence on the Ireland team.

There won't be a competitive game for almost a year and Ireland tells us that he can use this time to have a good think. He's also looking for a chat with the two lads.

"I would like to get together with Martin O'Neill or Roy Keane and have a chat. But Euro qualifying doesn't start until next September, so I have some time to think about that," he said and the heart sank.

One of the major potential dividends from the appointment of Keane was the possibility that he might get a chance to knock some sense into Ireland – metaphorically speaking, of course.

He was a fantastic player for a season with Manchester City and one of the very few lights in the darkness which enveloped the senior team during the Staunton era.

It was comforting to think that Keane might make Ireland a special project. He would earn his corn for O'Neill and his country if he could do that and who better than a problem child to sort out a problem child.



But Ireland's misplaced sense of importance remains strong, judging by those words. The implication is that he wouldn't need to do what every other player will do which is to knuckle down under the new regime and turn up for every match – rain or shine.

The issue of commitment became a ping pong ball during Giovanni Trapattoni's time and it is difficult to imagine that O'Neill and Keane's standards will be any less stringent than the Italian's.

The way to make a big impact on O'Neill and Keane is not to look for a chat, but to declare himself available for selection with no strings attached. Turn up and shut up. That's two good bits of advice for Ireland if he ever takes advice from anyone. It would save him an awful lot of grief.

It could well be that Keane will be dispatched by O'Neill to have a 'chat', but Ireland should be careful what he wishes for. He's not alone. Shane Long was quick to tweet his delight at the appointment of the dynamic duo and James McClean likewise.

O'Neill has already had words with the man David Meyler tagged as his son over the weekend about the dangers of social media and 'Dad' may have some new rules about smartphone usage.

There was a clean slate when Noel King took charge for a couple of games and maybe there will be another when O'Neill gets to work on Monday, but both he and Keane have eyes and ears.

Across England for the last week, all the players in the Ireland squad or bubbling under been doing what players do; wondering how this will impact on them individually.

It was smart for most of them to keep their counsel. Forde is a senior player, mature and well able to speak for himself. In many ways, his genuine pleasure at the news reflects the consensus in the squad and he did himself no damage by talking. Ireland should read his interview.