RTE pundit and journalist Eamon Dunphy has hit out at Martin O'Neill's treatment of Wes Hoolahan and believes Irish players are being stifled by the Derry man's cautious approach.
Ireland go into this weekend's must-win qualifier against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in need of the three points to keep alive their hopes of qualification for Euro 2016.
Sunday's goalless draw with England was an under-whelming performance by the Boys in Green, and Dunphy says that for all the criticism Giovanni Trapattoni received for his conservative approach, little has changed under the stewardship of the former Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland boss.
“Irish fans have had almost seven years of coaches that don’t believe in their players, who are getting paid the biggest sums of money in Europe, Trapattoni was the highest-paid manager in Europe and O’Neill is not far off it now,” Dunphy said on 2FM's Game On programme last night.
“Against Scotland we were terrible and against Germany for 70 minutes we were terrible. And we weren’t really that good in our first match where Aiden McGeady got us out of jail against Georgia.”
The outspoken pundit believes that it is clear that O'Neill's approach is hampering the attacking instincts of some of the members of the squad, something he feels was confirmed by a recent public statements given by winger Aiden McGeady.
“He [McGeady] said that ‘we play great football in training but when we get on the pitch for serious matches we don’t play.’
“That’s like a knife in the manager’s back. That’s his job to get the football out of the players. To encourage them to play.
“On that score O’Neill has not had a very distinguished score so far. And for that reason we are backs to the wall, we have to win this game [against Scotland]. A draw is no good."
Dunphy reserved his biggest criticism for the treatment of Norwich City's Wes Hoolahan. The midfielder started in the last home qualifier against Poland, but O'Neill has suggested his worth may only lie in home games, with a more defensive set-up not suited to the Dubliner's natural attacking instincts.
Hoolahan didn't feature against England and Dunphy believes the layer is coming under undue pressure from his manager.
"He’s talked stupidly about Wes Hoolahan being able to play at the Aviva but not being able to play away from home," he said.
“What pressure that puts on Wes when he goes on the pitch, ‘the manager doesn’t really believe in me.’
“And O’Neill is musing in public about whether to play Wes Hoolahan in away games. I mean that’s a sacking offence. The Martin O’Neill who achieved great things with Celtic, Leicester and even Wycombe was optimistic. He did instil belief in his players.
“I mean he got to a UEFA Cup final with a team that overachieved but if you’re humming and hawing in public about Wes Hoolahan that’s outrageous. I’d sack him for that.”
It's been a rollercoaster last month for the much-maligned Paul McShane. Relegation from the Premier League with Hull City coincided with the club releasing him but a recall to the Ireland fold will have somewhat softened that blow.