Tuesday 20 November 2018

'We can get more out of the group' - Kenny Cunningham questions whether Martin O'Neill should continue as Ireland boss

16 October 2018; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
16 October 2018; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham believes Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill will be under huge pressure after his side slumped to a home defeat against a youthful Wales side at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland are now set to be relegated to the group of third tier teams in UEFA's Nations League, with a third seeding for the Euro 2020 qualifiers also likely after another blunt attacking performance against a Wales side lacking the talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

There were suggestions that O'Neill needed positive results in the game against Denmark on Saturday and then against Wales, with Cunningham suggesting the failure to score in both games leaves the Ireland boss in a vulnerable position.

"It'll bring a bit of pressure on to the manager," Cunningham told the BBC. "The level of performance has not been good enough over the last year, you can trace it back to the humiliation against Denmark.

"My personal opinion is we can get more out of the group. Of course we haven't got a natural goalscorer but there's not going to be another Robbie Keane, so we have to find another solution.

"Sean Maguire is knocking on the door and Callum Robinson has shown up really well and looks like he can play a role for us. But Martin O'Neill has to decide how we are going to play going forward.

"Whether Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane get the opportunity to do that I'm not too sure. I think they still have the backing of John Delaney but we need to see an upturn in performance very quickly.

"We haven't been able to turn it around, we haven't been creating enough opportunities, keeping enough clean sheets and we've looked very disjointed.

"Clearly we're lacking confidence, we pressed a little higher up the pitch than we have. We forced a couple of mistakes that we couldn't take advantage of but once Wales got in front they just grew in confidence and they opened us up at will in the end. They could have added to the scoreline and made it more comfortable."

Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews accused Ireland's management team of O'Neill and Roy Keane of failing to arm their players with a plan as another lacklustre perforce ended with a 1-0 defeat against a spirited Wales side.

"I don't know what we are doing," Andrews told Sky Sports. "On Saturday against Denmark, I can accept it to a degree, but we need to see an evolution.

"In the second half, we stuck three players on and I used to hate that a club level. Stick on an extra striker on having never worked on it in training. Shane Long was playing as a right winger by the end, but it just looks like it's all off the cuff. Have they worked on playing a narrow 4-3-3 in training? Absolutely not.

"These Plan A, B, C and D need to be worked on and evidently they are not. It's a massive massive struggle in every game. These players need to be fine tuned a little, but at the moment, it's not good."

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