Delaney asks the real question on future of Irish game

There has been a trend developing in football, or soccer, or whatever you call it yourself, whereby multi-million pound players leaving big clubs for other big clubs tweet or Instagram or communicate in some other new-fangled way their gratitude to the fans and the institution they are leaving behind.

Delaney asks the real question on future of Irish game

Some of them say sorry that things didn’t work out — like Angel Di Maria on leaving Manchester United for Paris Saint-Germain — but, you know, that’s life and nothing ventured, nothing gained and all the rest of it. Others, like Edin Dzeko, seek to solidify some sort of positive legacy by claiming “I will continue to be a big fan of Manchester City”. Sure you will, pal.

It’s already become a bit passé, truth be told, and the whole thing was parodied brilliantly, if unintentionally, last month when it was claimed that the farewell Samuel Eto’o had penned for Sampdoria supporters was all but identical to the one he had used when departing Everton back at the start of the year.

Like Eto’o, it seems, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

So, Damien Delaney’s fairly detailed message about how he was calling time on his international career didn’t grab us by the lapels when we first came across the headline earlier this week, but then we decided we’d better have a gander.

Such is life for the sports journalist: it may not particularly interest you at the time but, hey, it’s a part of the gig to be aware of this stuff and you’d never know when that little titbit of information will prove its worth down the line. Delaney’s statement proved to be good value straight away.

First he rejected the suggestion that there was bad blood between him and Roy Keane and insisted that the relationship had nothing to do with his rare appearances for the Republic of Ireland under Martin O’Neill. And then there was some fairly bald stuff about how he probably wasn’t the answer to his country’s call at the ripe old age of 34 anyway.

More power to him, it wasn’t the usual guff.

What really stood out though was his claim that we as a footballing nation need to sit down and consider just what it is we stand for. This was good timing. It just so happened that Delaney’s two cents worth was digested a few hours after this column had heard a guy called Nick Page talking about male mid-life crises on Sean Moncrieff’s radio show.

Page has written a book called ‘The Dark Night of the Shed’ and in it he wrote about how all the shiny cars, love affairs, fitness fads and the like can’t solve the problem and that, sooner or later, us fellas have to take stock and ask who we are exactly and why we are here. His answer, incidentally, was to build a sort of man-shed and hence the book’s title.

Irish soccer could do with doing just that. Not building a shed, obviously. It already had a hand in rebuilding Lansdowne after all, which wasn’t all that dissimilar to going out and buying yourself a Porsche when you’re feeling down. We’ve even let out hair down at shindigs from Euro ’88 to Euro 2012 and heaven knows we’ve had our flings with the likes of Stan, Trap and MonKeano.

What good has all that done the game here? The Republic puffs its way towards the home straight of the latest qualifying campaign next month with games against Gibraltar and Georgia and with the odds of making France next summer closer to none than slim and with the sense of disillusionment and disenfranchisement keener than ever.

So what is it exactly that Irish football stands for? And not just the ‘Boys in Green, but the kids in green and the girls in green, too_ And how should Irish teams even play? Are we to remain forever a sort of England-Light, a team built on physicality and endeavour, but one painfully lacking in the talent required and in the basics of touch and tactics compared to our more refined and enlightened continental counterparts?

“We need to build an identity and team ethos from schoolboy football to full international that will last,” said Delaney. “There are many footballing philosophies and we need to choose one that suits Irish traits and strengths best, similar to what Wales are now achieving or what Mr Trapattoni achieved in his time in charge.”

There are other pressing questions besides.

What part can our national league play in all this? You think of how the League of Ireland has wallowed in a state of disrepair and disregard for half a century and compare that to the story of FC Mdtjylland, the Danish champions who faced Southampton in the Europa League last night only 16 years after being formed.

Where is the Irish equivalent? Why don’t we demand more of and for our domestic league? Time and again; we have heard people inside the game bemoan the lack of answers, but the bigger problem is that not enough people are, like Delaney, prepared to even ask the relevant questions. We are all to blame for that.




: @Rackob

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