Friday 15 December 2017

Ireland's need for win a no-brainer, insists Duff

Damien Duff with Brian Kerr in Dublin yesterday at a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of the Ireland U-20s third place finish at the 1997 U-20 World Cup in Malaysia. Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan
Damien Duff with Brian Kerr in Dublin yesterday at a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of the Ireland U-20s third place finish at the 1997 U-20 World Cup in Malaysia. Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan
David Kelly

David Kelly

To Damien Duff, the solution to the dilemma is so obvious it shouldn't even be called a dilemma.

Ireland simply have to beat Austria tomorrow; more, Ireland should have beaten Wales last time out, too, notwithstanding the apparent reluctance of manager Martin O'Neill to be disappointed with a draw.

This time, there shouldn't even be the need for a pre-match preamble amongst the players; the prize is obvious, three points, one, if not two World Cup rivals despatched to relative obscurity and a crack for top billing with a hardly vintage Serbian outfit.

Such ambitions refute the necessity for an inordinate need for self-arousal.

"When you're playing a team at home, where Austria are in the group and the problems they are having, if you don't come away with the win you'd have to say going back on the bus that you'd be bitterly disappointed," says Duff with the ample simplicity that sums up his part-time métier as a match-day analyst.

"I'm not saying it's win or bust but we have to be looking for three points.

"Even the Wales game, the sending-off with half an hour to go, maybe they'd be disappointed not to put them to the sword.

"I think it was Gareth Bale's first or second match back from his ankle injury. Again, they were there for the taking."

The potential for Ireland to make a significant statement of intent tomorrow evening, even not taking into account of results elsewhere, lies in wait for O'Neill's men.

"You don't even need to have a chat," insists Duff, who is tentative when presented with the familiar international tale of a continental outfit being in turmoil, following the Austrians' spectacular fall from grace since sweeping through their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

"When you are sitting in your room, or in the bath or wherever, you just know. You don't need to be told by the staff. You know that if you have half a brain.

"The amount of times you hear the team is in turmoil and then they produce a result. They obviously have a bit about them.

"You still can't underestimate them. That is the worst thing you could do.

"From what I have seen of Serbia, so far, I know the lads got a bit of stick when they went over there. But I thought it was an incredible result.

"It is the best point we have earned so far in the group. It is a tough place to go.

"I'd still have Serbia as the team to beat but they still have to come to us, so we will see."

Ireland do, however, have a striking problem; a lack of strikers. The news that Jonathan Walters passed fit, for now, yesterday emerged as some relief.

Following the withdrawal of David McGoldrick earlier this week, a small Irish support base gathered in the Aviva to watch a cast of nearly 30 Irish players - and just one striker - going through their paces. A far cry from the days when Jack Charlton once brought six to a World Cup and had the luxury of denying one of them, a multi-medalled star of Arsenal and Manchester United, a minute of game-time.

"We had one man who was there for 15-odd years," adds Duff, referring to his aul' mucker Robert David Keane.

"He scored all our goals, all the important ones, and like I have always said when he is gone that is when you are going to miss him.

"Jonny has done incredibly well over the last couple of years but he is on the home straight as well. He is not getting any younger.

"What is coming up behind? I am not so sure. I am involved with the Irish U15s but I do not know about the U17s and U19s," Duff adds.

"Of course it is a worrying prospect regarding the international side, but not only for strikers, go through the whole team. Whether the future is bright, I don't know."

All of which means the relevance of his carpe diem message is even more profound.

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