Sometimes in life, you have to be careful what you wish for. And after a decade of near misses, we fooled ourselves into being dreamers again, seduced by the false hope that once we got to the finals of a major competition, the honest, journeymen pros who, last season, failed to play for any of the Premier League’s top six clubs, would be transformed into world beaters.
Instead, the biggest talking point to come out of these championships, from an Irish perspective, surrounded Roy Keane. When Keane speaks, the agenda is set. And so the build up to last night’s game against Italy was dominated by the words of a player whose last Irish international came seven years ago. That, as much as anything, is an indictment of how disinterested the press and public have become with the words and actions of a team who have been exposed at the highest level. Again last night, the same old story repeated itself. Tactically and technically we were outplayed. The final scoreline, Ireland 0-2 Italy, was a just return for a group of older players whose best days have gone and for a manager who is living off his 1980s heyday. And yet the tournament had its moments Here, as Davina McCall might say, were the best bits.
CHANT OF THE WEEK
Sung to the tune of Walking into a Winter Wonderland: “There is only one Angela Merkel, just one Angela Merkel. She gave us the cash, so we’ve gone on the lash, walking in a Merkel wonderland.”
Ireland’s fans serenade our national leader.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s your dream to go and play in the championships and play well and be brilliant, and it’s just not happened for us, so it’s heartbreaking.
“As much as we wanted to do well, we know we haven’t. We are playing against teams that are better than us and it’s hard to accept that our best at the moment isn’t good enough.”
Richard Dunne tells it as it is
MOMENT OF THE WEEK
The final five minutes prior to kick off in Poznan will never be forgotten. As 20,000 Irish fans sang ‘Come on you boys in Green’ thoughts turned to two other great atmospheric days, the 1-0 victory over Holland in 2001, and the 2-0 defeat at Anfield in 1995. Such a pity the football had to interrupt the fun.
WHO SHOULD GO? WHO SHOULD STAY?
Giovanni Trapattoni’s time is up. He was exposed as a tactical buffoon against Croatia and picked the wrong team against Spain and Italy. Several players have been isolated by his stubbornness and inability to communicate in English. The fact he hasn’t mastered the language after four years in the job is a terrible sign of disrespect.
Yet while Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Shay Given have not played well in the last week, they must be persuaded to stay. The pool isn’t deep enough to adequately replace them and even if they no longer maintain starting positions, the option of selecting them has to be considered.
WITH A DIFFERENT MANAGER AND TEAM, COULD WE HAVE QUALIFIED FOR THE QUARTER FINALS?
In reality, no. Yet a 3-1 defeat to Croatia could have been a 1-1 draw. The murder on the Gdansk floor could have been less painful against Spain and the Italian match may not have been a dead rubber. In defence of the team, Group C was the toughest of the four.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The players must learn the harsh lessons and the FAI should give Giovanni Trapattoni his P45. He may have done a fine job until May 2012 but football is all about moving forward. Time waits on no man, even great ones.