Ireland may have grand plan but Seamus Coleman not allowed to divulge it as manager pulls reins
Seamus Coleman, as honest as a captain can attempt to be in such straitened circumstances of late, attempted to wield some player responsibility in the aftermath of the dire draw with Northern Ireland.
It seemed he wanted to warm to the theme yesterday before his manager decided to wrestle the burden from his grasp.
Before he did so, Coleman had been reminded of his pledge to "man up" and take responsibility following Thursday's game and was asked had he now shared that message with his players.
"Players on the pitch have to look for the ball, give angles for the ball," he said to the TV cameras. "If you don't have two or three people looking for it and I give it away, it looks like my fault. It's a collective thing.
"As a group, we know it wasn't good enough and I hope tomorrow night we can be a lot better."
This seemed fair enough, in principle, before a later exchange away from the cameras deviated into odd territory, with the manager stridently seeking to absolve his captain for the need to assume any obligation to explain the purpose - such as it may be - of Ireland's playing approach.
"Seamus, you mentioned earlier about showing the ball and keeping the ball..." was the attempted question, albeit merely a reiteration of earlier comments.
"That's my responsibility," interjected O'Neill. "I think Seamus has answered that a number of times really. That's something that is down to me. I'm the manager."
Not unreasonably, given that it is they who must cross the white line, it was suggested that Coleman might be persuaded to indicate what plans may have been put in place at training to alleviate the team's concerns.
"I don't think you should ask Seamus that, you should ask me that," said O'Neill.
"I'd like to ask the captain if he knows?"
"I don't think you should ask him, you should ask me."
"Is it not also down to the players?"
"It's down to me, it is down to me, yeah. Seamus is a player and is captain of the side at the end of the day. He follows the instructions from me."
And what were those instructions, as much as could be gleaned earlier from the manager?
"I want us to play well, that's important. Seamus has mentioned some of those things, I didn't really want Seamus answering that question as it's my responsibility at the end of the day. It's my responsibility to get them to play, to be more creative.
"And that's the thing that is very important, naturally I want to do well in the game, be more creative and being more creative you are hoping then to be able to create more chances."
How exactly this scenario, still now invisible from the public gaze, is precisely to be imparted remains equally unclear. It does appear, however, given the slightly tetchy exchange, that the management have the final word. The team's consistent inarticulacy on the field fuels the other ongoing debate.
Are they incapable of adhering or, as may seem more probable, simply now mute to anything that is imparted to them by the vast array of coaching personnel?
If all else fails, perhaps Coleman and his crew can take some inspiration from Ireland's rugby triumph.
"Last night was great," he said. "We all sat down to watch it and to beat the All Blacks was amazing.
"We should be very proud. All of the supporters are rightly proud and we were supporting them last night. It was a great night for the country.
"Look, it's two different sports, but last night we were massively inspired. They were wearing that green Ireland jersey and when they are wearing that we are all together.
"But we have a job to do now. We have to put in a big performance for ourselves.
"We are looking forward to getting back to those big nights."