Sunday 21 January 2018

Givens does not justify the means

Our U21 international team reached a new low on Wednesday night when beaten 2-1 by mighty Armenia in Tallaght.

This followed our 4-1 hammering by the same opposition in Yerevan back in November. It's not that Armenia have a particularly good bunch of U21s, their only wins in the group have been against Ireland. We, on the other hand, have won no game at all out of seven played in a qualifying campaign which has also included a 3-0 hammering by Turkey in Cork and failures to beat those football giants, Estonia and Georgia.

We prop up Group Two, behind Armenia, Georgia, Estonia, Turkey and a whopping 12 points behind Switzerland who are a prime example of how a country with limited resources can punch above its weight at underage level.

We used to be like that. Remember Brian Kerr's double victories in the European U16 and U18 championships in 1998 and his third place with the U20s in that year's World Cup? But we don't have Brian Kerr any more. We have Don Givens. And while Don Givens may have been a great striker for Ireland, he has been an abysmal manager. The only other countries unable to secure a win in qualifying so far are Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Malta, Macedonia and Azerbaijan.

What is happening with the current U21 team is no one-off occurrence. In the last qualifying campaign, we also finished bottom of the group, with five points from eight games. In those eight games we conceded 14 goals and scored four. Yet the FAI has allowed Don Givens to continue a reign which has lasted ten years with no success at all.

You might have some sympathy for Don Givens were he not so quick at spotting the mote in everyone else's eye. He has managed to fall out with such promising players as Keith Treacy, Anthony Stokes, Richie Foran and Chris McCann. In one game as caretaker senior boss in 2002, he had a row with David Connolly while recently he saw it as his duty to lambast Stephen Ireland.

Givens seems to think young players don't take representing Ireland seriously enough. But is there any reason they should with a manager like him in charge? The FAI is failing our best young players. Stealing players from Northern Ireland is hardly the solution to the problem.

Sunday Independent

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