Tuesday 21 November 2017

Off The Ball: It's verging on unethical to charge fans into meaningless friendlies

Jack Charlton’s introduction was the highlight of a tedious friendly on Sunday
Jack Charlton’s introduction was the highlight of a tedious friendly on Sunday

Joe Molloy

What a beautiful start to proceedings on Sunday lunchtime when Jack Charlton basked in an outpouring of love at Lansdowne Road. He struck such a fragile figure, a million miles away from that booming, gruff giant from my youth.

I spent lots of happy days down in Ballina, Co Mayo with my grandparents once upon a time. The salmon fishing is good on the River Moy and Jack was a frequent visitor to the area. It was always a bit magic to turn the corner in Dunnes Stores and see him wandering back up the bread aisle.

Fully ensconced in his role as national treasure, autographs were easy to come by and valuable commodities upon return home. The men loved him, the women loved him, the kids loved him. Ultimately what was so lovely about Sunday was that the love meant a lot to him.

That of course was in stark contrast to the rest of the afternoon. Talk about hollow and going through the motions. I was at Wembley in 2013 and watched an excellent first half in particular. Sunday never even approached getting going. It's quite understandable and one can't really blame the players.

They'd be of peculiar character to start hurtling into tackles with vital qualifiers a week away, but we have surely passed the point where international friendlies are of value to anyone, bar maybe the accountants. It is now verging on the unethical to charge fans to watch these games.

And one wonders what lessons Martin O'Neill can take from an encounter so bereft of any life.


So bring on Scotland. We were utterly outclassed in Glasgow. Aiden McGeady was on the show last week and talked about the need for Ireland to get a grip on possession this time around.

Hopefully Wes Hoolahan is fit to start and links the play like we know he can. Ideally he's not forced to drop deep to pick up the ball as happened against Poland in Dublin. So once again we're asking James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan to step up and dictate a game for us. Take the ball from the defenders, turn and pass it forward into feet. Here's hoping.

Irish Independent

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