Ronnie Whelan: Even the basics seem to be a stretch - Ireland have got the points but where is the quality?
Read Ronnie Whelan ever week in The Herald
I’m puzzled. I just can’t square the number of points Ireland have with the performances or the feeling that ultimately, the wheels will fall off the World Cup qualifying campaign.
I watched Irish players who could hardly kick the ball out of their way in the Aviva against Georgia and then against Moldova and my thought was that this is not down to Martin O’Neill.
These are professional footballers, many of them playing every week in the Premier League.
And yet even the basics seem to be a stretch at international level.
I’m not talking about the debate centering on Wes Hoolahan, who can obviously pass the ball and was the main reason Ireland came home with three points instead of something worse.
Hoolahan was knocked off the ball more than once in this game but his passing was excellent and his work throughout had a major say in the win in Chisinau.
No, this is about individual players taking responsibility for their actions and having the courage to do the things they’ve been doing since they first showed that they were a cut above average football payers.
It’s about passing the ball ten yards without putting it into touch or not whacking it 40 yards because it seems like the thing to do.
Many, many times against Moldova, Irish players just hoofed the ball for absolutely no reason and I don’t think that had anything to do with O’Neill.
Sure, his selections have been a big source of debate and his assessment of games far removed from what I see in them.
He can’t hold these players’ hands and show them how to do something they’ve been doing for years.
As of now, Ireland are at the top of the group and below them are Wales and Austria and I just can’t understand how that has happened.
But for a kick here or there against Serbia, that game could easily have been lost and against Georgia, only the upright stood between O’Neill and a very poor home draw.
Still, Ireland must take full advantage from the position they find themselves in and my hope is that over the course of this group, they will find their way back to the form that cheered us all up in France and made us think that the future was bright. Next up is Austria and that would not be a bad place to start.
Get to the turn of the year with ten points and Russia is very much on.