Tuesday 20 August 2019

John Giles: Besides Declan Rice and Coleman's return, nothing I saw from Ireland gave me optimism

Mehmet Topal of Turkey scores his side's goal against Ireland
Mehmet Topal of Turkey scores his side's goal against Ireland

John Giles

IF Ireland's friendly with Turkey was to be the start of something new and a foundation for what is to come over the next few years, it wasn't a very good one.

Apart from the very obvious quality Declan Rice displayed from start to finish and the fact that Seamus Coleman is back, I didn't see anything to give me great cause for optimism and I saw that some bad habits from the recent past are still worryingly present.

Rice is 19 and it is a lot ask of any young lad to take his first steps in international football at such a tender age but he looked comfortable and I would even say that international football looked easy for him.

But he is 19 and from what Martin O'Neill said after the game, his ultimate international allegiance is not decided.

So we should be careful about making any assumptions even if all the signs are promising.

The current debate about Michael O'Neill's view of the FAI's recruitment policy means that every player choosing to play his home games in the Aviva Stadium instead of Windsor Park or indeed Wembley, is being scrutinised more than ever before.

I'm not entirely sure where Michael is coming from on this one because for me it is all about the player's own choice and I think Rice is a very good example of the way it should work.

The player must be committed and show that he wants to be with the Ireland squad once he satisfies the FIFA/UEFA rules on eligibility. Everything else is irrelevant.

BRIGHT FUTURE: The Republic of Ireland’s Declan Rice in action against Turkey at Antalya Stadium last night. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rice clearly wanted to be in Turkey. That was evident from the interviews I saw with him after the game and his comments in newspaper reports.

This was a very proud moment for him and his family. That's a good sign and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of him in a green shirt in the coming years.

In normal circumstances, I'd be more than happy to put that in the bank from any friendly international and declare the exercise a success.

But I was looking for something more from the game, as I'm sure Martin O'Neill was and at the end of it, I was disappointed. I hope he was too.

I know this was a fresh start and O'Neill wanted to give some new faces a chance but I found the whole game confusing. I wasn't sure what Ireland were trying to do. I thought his approach fed into that.

The ideal way to bring on new talent is to put two or three into a framework made of up of the best players available. Against Turkey, Ireland tried a new system with three at the back in a team selection which included six players with little or no international experience.

It was always going to be difficult for a lad like Alan Browne in midfield to find his feet in an environment like that .

It was difficult for Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire to do anything in the game because they were used as target men for long balls. Neither is an ideal candidate for that approach.

The three at the back experiment didn't work as intended and Ireland's frailty at set-pieces were again exposed.

I had to laugh when O'Neill said after the game that he hoped that this wasn't becoming a trend.

This has been an issue under O'Neill since Ireland failed to defend a corner properly against Scotland in the qualifying for France 2016 at Parkhead and it reared its head again against Turkey.

When you can point to several other examples during the time in between, most notably against Denmark, it looks like a pattern to me and one which must be addressed as a fundamental failing.

From Rice's interview, it is clear that O'Neill is continuing with his policy of waiting until an hour before the game before telling the squad his team and while I think that is leaving it a bit late, I'm not as concerned by that as I am by the fact that every player in the squad should know how to defend a corner.

All managers have different ways of motivating players and I would never second-guess O'Neill on this issue.

If he wants to wait until the last minute, that's his way and he will, with complete justification, point to the results he has achieved over his career to back it up as a valid approach.

But defending a corner is a basic in the game and if you don't have that right from the start, it doesn't matter how much motivating a manager does or when he does it.

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