Wednesday 24 January 2018

Damien Duff: It's not pretty but it's hard to argue with history-making Martin O'Neill

Irish soccer legend and TV pundit Damien Duff. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Irish soccer legend and TV pundit Damien Duff. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ten days on from a famous win in Cardiff, mixed feelings remain in Irish football about the methods that secured a valuable success.

Now that he's out of the dressing room and working as a TV pundit, Damien Duff can appreciate the dilemma. He was with his old boss Brian Kerr at a Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) event in Dublin yesterday and they were on the same page about Ireland's unattractive style under Martin O'Neill and the fact that Denmark are a favourable draw for the World Cup play-offs once Christian Eriksen can be contained.

"Eriksen is the key man and with Martin's luck he might miss the match," Kerr quipped.

But Duff admits that it's difficult to argue with O'Neill's results, even though he still has a niggling feeling that Ireland could have qualified automatically.

"We've had some of the biggest results in our football history over the last couple of years and it's under Martin. So that's why it's hard to knock him," says Duff.

"It's a bizarre one, a love-hate one. We're all quick to criticise the style of play and what have you but listen, we're in another play-off and if we get there he would be the first one since Jack to qualify for two consecutive major tournaments but it's not pretty at times.

"We all know that but maybe with the personnel that's just the way Martin goes. Mind you, I think he's played a lot like that in his career. I still think we messed up along the way, the likes of Austria at home, Wales (home), Georgia away. You look at Serbia and I think they won by a point did they? I still think it was still there to win.

"But I don't think Denmark are graced with an awful lot of quality. They obviously have Eriksen, (who is) world-class you'd argue. But what else? I'm not sure."

Kerr echoes that view about the challenge that awaits O'Neill's side in November. He does have a knowledge of the Danish scene from his stint with the Faroes.

"The teams have similar styles and play direct, but we seem to play that way more intentionally," says the former Irish boss.

"They have a mixed group, like us, but their players are more spread out. They have more links around Europe - not like us where all our players go and play in England. They've always had players in Spain, Italy and Germany and that's a good mixture. They are a good second-placed team but it's an even match."

Duff and Kerr were speaking at a SARI event in St Kilian's Senior NS, Ballymount to celebrate FARE #FOOTBALLPEOPLE action weeks. Schools interested should email info@sari.ie

Irish Independent

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