Wednesday 17 January 2018

Quinn: McCarthy needs to up game for Ireland

James McCarthy
James McCarthy

John Fallon

Niall Quinn has expressed disappointment at James McCarthy's failure to replicate his club form at international level, insisting the Everton man must up his game if Ireland's European qualifying campaign is to be rescued.

On the back of Liam Brady questioning McCarthy's passion for international football, Quinn pinpointed his performance in June's 1-1 draw against Scotland as a real concern.

The 24-year-old midfielder - who agreed a new five-year contract with Everton on Thursday amid reported interest from bigger suitors - must be braver in joining the attack, according to Quinn. McCarthy has yet to score for Ireland after five years and 27 caps as a senior international.

"I think James McCarthy is a fine, fine footballer and everybody is right to be excited about him," said Quinn. "But I watched the last game against Scotland, probably the most important game in the group, and it was frightening - to see James on the outskirts when all the crosses were coming into the box.

"I got Sky Sports to tell me the stats - Wes Hoolahan played the ball wide 18 times. I have never played in the team where that was not the signal for one midfielder to go into the box. But as soon as it went wide, McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Glenn Whelan didn't do it so the Scottish defenders just cleared it.

"My disappointment was McCarthy has this chance of being a fine player, but where would Steven Gerrard be if he didn't gamble on getting into the box? I would imagine Martin O'Neill is telling him to get in there, but he's not. Because he has presence, energy and sees things, James could be a key player for us - if he starts getting in the box and scoring goals.

"This is not something that needed five years to eke out, this is one performance and I was hoping that Scotland at home was going to be the one, but it wasn't."

As the Sunderland chairman who recruited O'Neill as manager in 2011, and disagreed with owner Ellis Short's decision to sack the Derryman 15 months later, Quinn has faith in the current Ireland regime. He believes O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane deserve contract extensions irrespective of the current campaign outcome. However, he admits he is disappointed by the team's recent displays and results.

"I know that between Martin's enthusiasm and what he brings to the dressing room, it is game changing," said Quinn. "And with Roy in there, I thought the players are going to be 15 to 20 per cent better than they are for their clubs.

"That last-minute equaliser in Germany showed me that it could be there with this team, moments you think 'Martin's thing is tangible', but then there are other moments where our weaknesses are exposed a little bit. And despite what he is trying to do, I am not certain we have the players who can match up with where he wants to bring them.

"All Irish teams who qualified pulled a result from somewhere, or got a result that people didn't expect, that kept them right up there in the hunt.

"We're leaving it late in this one. It's more hope than expectation at this stage, but if Martin can turn this group of people into a team capable of getting a result against Germany or Poland in the last two games in October, it's right up there with anything he's done in his career.

"Similarly, if he doesn't do it, I don't think we should say 'ah, he didn't do it'. It's a work in progress and I would love to see him take on the World Cup qualification campaign."

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