Tuesday 12 December 2017

'You're not answering the question Richie' – RTE panel in post-mortem into Irish football

Richard Sadlier
Richard Sadlier

Will Slattery and Declan Whooley

It was a day that would define Irish football for the next few years, and the pressure was on one man who had been thrust into the spotlight in place of a legend.

Daryl Murphy probably felt the weight of expectation starting in place of Robbie Keane, but that would have been miniscule compared to the scrutiny heaped upon Richie Sadlier in the build-up to Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.

John Giles was seemingly dropped for the crucial fixture – RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent, like any good manager, emphasised punditry rotation as the reason – and Sadlier was promoted.

The backlash was surprisingly hostile. Fans, players, government ministers, Eamon Dunphy and even the man himself expressed dismay at the move, with people seemingly forgetting that Sadlier filled in for Giles in the corresponding fixture at Celtic Park last year.

Much like the Irish team itself, people were unsure how Sadlier, Dunphy and Liam Brady would line up.

Read more: John Giles verdict: Ireland scrapped better than Scotland - You cannot question Irish spirit

It turned out that the former Millwall striker was picked on the left side of a studio three, symbolically sitting in the seat of the man he replaced.

"I’m pessimistic," Dunphy said early on in the program. He was talking about the Irish line-up but given the rhetoric he was pushing during the week, he might have been a reference to the new make-up of the panel.

Not content at easing him in, host Darragh Maloney thrust Sadlier straight into proceedings, giving him the box office opening assignment of running through the Irish team.

Then, we got to see why he was chosen in the first place.

Articulate, blunt and insightful, Sadlier is interesting to listen to. After the disappointing 1-1 draw, he was even stronger as he painted a bleak picture of what missing out on qualification would mean for Irish football.

"Doing things the way they were done 20 years ago because we got results then doesn’t work, the rest of Europe is changing."

The failure to collect all three points resulted in an in-depth post-mortem and sparks began to fly when Sadlier was adamant it was "unexplainable" how the FAI could be in charge of football for so long and have no structure, or facility, in place to prepare young kids who go to England with professional dreams.

Dunphy and Giles with Liam Brady
Dunphy and Giles with Liam Brady

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