| 0°C Dublin


Ireland need their Euro 2016 talisman to relight his fire before it's too late

Kevin Palmer


Close

Brady scoring against Italy at Euro 2016. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Brady scoring against Italy at Euro 2016. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Brady scoring against Italy at Euro 2016. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

As the curtain fell on the career of Ireland's most prolific goalscorer, Robbie Brady was cast as the leader of the next generation.

This is a premium article

Premium articles will soon be available only to Independent.ie subscribers.

Robbie Keane's remarkable feats on the international stage cemented his legacy long before he played his last game in August 2016, with the No 10 shirt he had made his own for so long passed on to the player most likely to fill the void he left behind.

Back then, Keane's fellow Dubliner Brady appeared to be a credible fit to take that jersey, with his 'coronation' coming a few months after he joined the select bands of Irish heroes to have produced an iconic moment on the international stage when he scored a winning goal against Italy in the Euro 2016 finals a few months earlier.

Symbolism is significant in sport, and while 24-year-old Brady was never likely to fill the huge void Keane's retirement left in the Ireland team alone, it seemed as if the then Norwich winger was ready to assume a leadership role in Martin O'Neill's Ireland team.

Yet the years since the summer of 2016 have not been kind to Brady and as he battles to justify his selection in Sean Dyche's Burnley side for this weekend's Premier League game against Arsenal, the jury remains out on a player who may be running out of time to fulfil his potential.

There can be little doubt that the diminutive youngster who emerged through the ranks at Dublin schoolboy club St Kevin's Boys and went on to get a crack at the big time as he was recruited by Manchester United has made it in English football. He has managed to sustain a Premier League role in an era when the numbers achieving that dream have dwindled.

Yet Brady would have wanted more from a career that has seen him start just 13 Premier League games for Burnley since returning from a serious knee injury in October 2018.

Closing in on his 50th senior international cap, his moments of glory in national team green have been overshadowed by too many disappointments, with his absence from Mick McCarthy's current first team line-up evidence of his slump in fortunes.

Injuries have played a role in his slide from grace since Brady was promoted as the new face of the Ireland international team three-and-a-half years ago, but the player who toasted his 28th birthday last month is still trying to prove he can be the talisman we all want to believe he can be.

"The last couple of years have been awful because you think everything is going to be perfect as soon as you have been stitched up and you are nearly going to be ready to go," Brady told reporters in Dublin before he played for Ireland 'reserves' against New Zealand last November.

"The surgeon told me it was going to be close to two years before I am back to my best, not that I believed him for a second.

"I've picked up a lot of different traits over that time, both mentally and physically, to make myself the best that I can be.

"For somebody who had no patience, I had to learn to have patience and it gave me a bit more time to get things in order off the pitch to find out different things about diet and training.

"I know I need to give myself the best chance to play for Burnley and the Ireland manager has made it clear that he wants us playing regularly for our clubs to get picked for the international squad."

With McCarthy keen for his starting eleven to be playing regular football at club level before he picks them for Ireland, the statistic that Brady has not completed a full 90 minutes for Burnley since a match against Brighton in December 2018 does not bode well for him.

The events of recent weeks have also been ominous as his manager Sean Dyche accused his team of 'not turning up' in the first half of their crucial relegation battle against Aston Villa on New Year's Day, with his decision to remove Brady from the action at half-time highlighting his role after an ineffective performance.

Brady then got another chance to confirm he was ready to spring back into form as he started in last weekend's FA Cup tie against his former club Norwich at Turf Moor, but he was replaced late on after failing to seize the moment as Burnley went out of the competition.

Unless the tide turns in his favour in the next few weeks, any hopes he might have of playing a part in Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia in March will be extinguished.

Brady was Ireland's talisman at the last European Championship finals, but he is in danger of becoming a forgotten man four years later.

ROBBIE BRADY TIMELINE

  • Born in Baldoyle on the north side of Dublin on January 14th 1992, Brady was spotted by Manchester United scouts while playing or St Kevin's Boys Club in 2008.
  • After impressing with Ireland underage sides, Brady received his first senior international call-up in 2012 and made his debut against Oman in September 2012.
  • Despite his good form on loan with Hull, Manchester United allowed Brady to make the move permanent in the summer of 2013.
  • Brady secured a move to newly-promoted Premier League side Norwich in the summer of 2015 and despite rumours of a potential move the following sparkling performances with Ireland at Euro 2016, he eventually joined Burnley in January 2017.
  • Brady started the 2017/18 season in sparkling fashion, but his season was cut short by a serious knee injury sustained in a clash with Leicester's Harry Maguire December 2nd.
  • He did not play again until October 2018 and ended last season with just six Premier League starts.
  • His struggles to break into the Burnley team have continued this season, with a pre-season rib injury one of the niggling problems that have halted his progress.
  • Brady admitted he was disappointed to be left out of the Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Switzerland in October and did not play in the crucial qualifier against Denmark a month later.

Online Editors