Richard Dunne: 'If this had been allowed to go on, I don't think they'd have sold any tickets for the games'
Read Richard Dunne in The Herald
THERE was no hope, no light at the end of the tunnel and it was the right time for Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane to go, as more than anything else the confidence had gone from the players.
If this had been allowed to go on, I honestly don't think they'd have sold any tickets for the games next year as things had gone so low. Martin could no longer get the best out of the players and it was time for someone else to do it.
I wasn't really surprised when I heard that Martin and Roy had gone. It was the timing that surprised me as I thought they were almost unsackable because of the contract they were on, but there was obviously a clause in the deals where the FAI were able to release them.
But from a football point of view, there was no surprise as this has been coming, and any manager who has a spell like the one Martin's had with Ireland has to be under pressure.
It all leads back to the Denmark game last year and then the fact that Martin was speaking to Stoke. If things had gone well with Ireland after that, I don't think people would have cared and Stoke would have been forgotten about, but because results didn't improve, it was inevitable that there would be questions.
Martin said at the start of the year that he was coming back fresh, it would be a new era, he'd get the team going again. But that never happened over the course of the year.
We still have a chance to qualify for the Euros even though the Nations League was poor. Attempting to qualify with a fresh face, and fresh ideas, will do everyone the world of good.
Martin tried to fix it which is why he stayed on so long. You don't get as far as Martin and Roy did in the game if you just walk away from things. Even as a player you go out believing you can win a game, even if you are bottom of the table, you still have the feeling that 'this is the day it turns around'.
So Martin and Roy had that feeling too, they felt they could turn it around. He may even have felt that another six months could see him get it right but we don't have the luxury of time.
The FAI gave him a year after the World Cup campaign ended and there was no sign of progress. I know he will point to the players coming in, but they are not coming into a structure so it was time to make a change and it suits both parties.
The game away to Denmark was poor and not the way they'd want to go out. Players made mistakes and that's not always the manager's fault and when you are an international manager, teaching the players how to pass the ball or even take a throw in is not one of your jobs.
But, if the players are making passes that go nowhere, because they have no options on the field around then, then that's down to the manager.
It's a shame as it all looked so good after the Euros but everything fell apart in one night at home to Denmark and there was no way back. The team never recovered from that 5-1 defeat.
In international football you can't get rid of the players so it always come back to the manager.
You will have some players who like the manager, others who don't, others who don't like him but try anyway and I know it's not the case that the players have not tried or put in a shift.
They will have believed, as Martin did, that the criticism was not deserved and it could turn with the next game. But there was no other game, he was out of time. Martin made some big calls in the last couple of games, like playing Cyrus Christie in midfield when he had recognised midfielders available.
Those are the calls a manager makes and it's not worked out for Martin, he can see what Christie has and he does have attributes but I don't see them suiting a central midfield position.
It's not just about scoring goals, if you are losing but still scoring, you can take comfort from that and build on it but this team were not scoring goals.
The team do miss Robbie Keane but we still have strikers; new forwards coming on the scene such as Michael Obafermi on Monday and Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire before that, Callum Robinson too.
So there are forwards there but the team doesn't create any chances for them, so how can they score?
They don't have other players putting in that pass for them, the instructions were to not get caught out, don't make mistakes, don't concede goals. The players took that on board but there was no happy mix in the attack.
You felt for the strikers as people look at them when the team don't score but they got no service. And if we can get a manager in who will play an attacking style of football, we have to do that. I was a defender so
I loved keeping clean sheets but you have to win games too.
They will be bruised by all this but I can see Martin and Roy coming back to the game. Martin's had great success in the Premier League and it's coming to that stage of the season where clubs start looking for managers to come in, clubs make changes so there will be opportunities.
The disappointment for Roy is that if things had gone well here, he'd have been next in line for the Ireland job and I don't know where this leaves him, but he still has such a standing in the game that he'll get an opportunity again.