Monday 22 January 2018

Off the Ball: Biggest problem is players running out of juice

Arriving into Paris city centre before Monday night's game was therefore a shock to the senses. Thousands of 21st century Joxers took control of the streets outside the Moulin Rouge. Closer to the Stade de France, Irish and Swedish fans mixed and posed together for newspaper pictures Photo: PA
Arriving into Paris city centre before Monday night's game was therefore a shock to the senses. Thousands of 21st century Joxers took control of the streets outside the Moulin Rouge. Closer to the Stade de France, Irish and Swedish fans mixed and posed together for newspaper pictures Photo: PA

Joe Malloy

Salutations de Versailles, far away in every respect from those grizzly scenes in Marseilles.

This is affluent, suburban Paris, humming along at its own designated pace. We've got fresh food markets and gated houses. The streets are symmetrical and co-ordinated. Tourists arrive daily to see the palace in all its baroque beauty.

Once the nation's capital, Versailles remains removed from wider French inconveniences like chronic social tension and double-digit unemployment.

It isn't the most diverse of populations. Indeed it's entirely possible here to be unaware of any tournament taking place; we are bereft of flags or bunting or fans. All in all, a perfect location for the team.

Arriving into Paris city centre before Monday night's game was therefore a shock to the senses. Thousands of 21st century Joxers took control of the streets outside the Moulin Rouge. Closer to the Stade de France, Irish and Swedish fans mixed and posed together for newspaper pictures.

And then, wonderfully, the first 50 minutes of this game were perhaps Ireland's best under Martin O'Neill. It's hard to remember an Irish side creating so many chances against any opposition of note.

What a joy it was to see Wes Hoolahan do what he did, on this stage. With just 31 caps he has been chronically short-changed by Irish football.

The worrying issue for this team going forward was the drop off in our energy levels.

Sure, we fell back with a goal to protect, but James McCarthy understandably struggled to keep sprinting out to the right wing to close Martin Ollson. Jeff Hendrick, supreme in the first half, is desperately short on game-time. Wes realistically doesn't have 90 minutes in him on Saturday.

It is deeply unfortunate that so many of our frontline players, across the middle of the field, are short on fitness.

This is O'Neill's biggest selection issue for Saturday. He has three substitutions and must name a team to finish this game with some juice.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport