Monday 19 August 2019

John Giles: Ireland need to accept their international stars will come from outside of the Premier League

John Giles urges Martin O’Neill to embrace a new era with Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile
John Giles urges Martin O’Neill to embrace a new era with Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile

John Giles

MARTIN O’Neill has a great chance to make a fresh start, push recent negative moments to one side and give a whole raft of young lads a chance to impress the nation when Ireland meet Turkey.

Let’s park any misgivings over the circumstances surrounding O’Neill’s new contract and take an optimistic view of the road ahead. He could even cast an eye over the job Joe Schmidt has been doing with the rugby team for some inspiration.

I don’t know anything about the inner workings of a professional rugby team but in any sport, really good managers share similar characteristics and the evidence of their work is easy to see on a pitch.

I know a well-oiled machine when I see it. Schmidt displays a relentlessly positive attitude to his job and everyone around him. He sends out teams to win. He radiates confidence and trust and is never too high and never too low in his reaction to success or failure.

The players have clearly bought into his message and as a result, we got perhaps the most accomplished performance at Twickenham from any Ireland team in any code starting in the favourite’s position.

It really was a pleasure to watch them go about their work against England with such determination and control and every one of them believing implicitly that they could and should win the game.

I was also impressed when Schmidt never hesitated and threw young lads into a huge game. That’s an aspect of his success story which Martin O’Neill must now copy.

O’Neill’s squad in Turkey has a very low age profile and he has dipped deep into the Championship for new blood. He has left almost all his old stagers behind. I’m glad he did this and it sends the right message to young lads making their way in the lower divisions in England.

Lately, I think everyone has become obsessed with the number of Premier League reached an accommodation with this reality a long time ago.

Foreign imports in the Premier League academies and first team squads have pushed many, many good players from these shores into the lower divisions but it is plain to see that clubs like Burnley and Leicester have done very well indeed working largely with players produced locally.

Iceland showed what can be done with a limited pool and likewise Wales who came within a whisker of reaching the Euro 2016 final.

England are also looking towards the Championship for talent. I can only assume that after reading about Liam Kelly’s decision to reject an invitation to travel with the Ireland squad to Turkey. He must have had a nudge of some description.

I’ve also noticed a good deal of talk about the fact that the Dublin contingent in O’Neill’s squad is so small and how this points to a decline in Ireland’s biggest nursery.

I’ve always believed that Ireland’s unique sporting landscape and the fact that football was limited to hotspots in and around big towns meant that the potential talent pool was never properly explored until the game spread countrywide during and after the Charlton era.

If there is slowdown in the production of good players in Dublin, we should be thankful that the expansion during Ireland’s most successful years on the pitch is now delivering recruits.

In the past few years, O’Neill has constantly spoken about how restricted he is by the players available to him so this would be a good time to change that tune.

It is vital that O’Neill gives these new young players an opportunity to take their first steps at this level without a constant drone about how limited Ireland’s options are and how hard every game must be.

Online Editors

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