If modern sport has taught us anything it could be the maxim more doesn’t always mean better. In terms of quality, that is, not money. Sport being the global mega-business it is means the urge to expand is just as inherent and relentless as in every other branch of capitalism, but it is rarely a case of everyone being a winner.
Just the money men.
Sure, there are those for whom there can never be enough sport, but we’ve seen the quality of the‘product’ deteriorate or simply become stale all too often. What used to be the European Cup is your prime example. There was a time Real Madrid-AC Milan was a once-in-a-decade treat, now it’s a delicacy diluted by over familiarity.
Rugby has suffered likewise.
The sight of the All Blacks on these shores is no longer a reason to salivate. There was even a time when the GAA Championships were deemed too fleeting. Now, with the qualifiers, they are accused of being too bloated while the Cheltenham Festival’s expansion to a fourth day has produced a Thursday card recognised as the weakest on the bill year after year.
And on it goes. The Olympics anyone?
The transfer deadline day that passed this week followed similar lines. Extended farther into the domestic season than before, it came, it went and it failed to conquer the collective imagination. Even the interest generated by the biggest coup in those closing days, that of Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg to Manchester City, was compromised by the player’s previous arrival in England to play for Chelsea.
The whole merry-go-round personified in one Belgian midfielder. From an Irish point of view there was even less to get the juices flowing. The three-way game of chicken between Stoke City, Jonathan Walters and Norwich City was about as good as it got. No offence to any of those parties, or the other suggested players Leicester City or WBA, but it seems a long way removed from the heady days when Manchester United broke the British transfer record by shelling out £3.75m for Roy Keane.
There was all that talk during the summer about Seamus Coleman ending up at Old Trafford. Talk that morphed into a conversation about how the Donegal defender was being lined up for a £20m bid by French giants Paris Saint- Germain. Ultimately, you have to admire Everton for their refusal to do business. Supposed suitors for Coleman, James McCarthy, Kevin Mirallas and John Stones have all successfully batted away, but with Coleman there is a case for Ireland profiting from Sonora sort of move: not one to a new club necessarily, but maybe more significant. Acknowledged as one of the best right-backs in England, isn’t there a case for him to be shifted again to midfield?
Ireland are crying out for invention and Coleman has played on the wing before for club and country. Damian Duff’s disappearance from the international stage hit the side as hard as everyone expected it would and the list of those seeking to fill the void isn’t exactly long or the auditions performed thus far in the post-Euro 2012 era all that impressive.
Aidan McGeady is in purgatory at Everton and has never won over the masses in an Irish shirt, James McClean remains a work in progress at best. Jonathan Walters, willing and admirable as he is, remains a striker shoehorned onto the right wing.
And on it goes… Coleman may or may not be the answer to that question, but he has hardly set the world alight for the Republic as he has for Everton, though his debut is over four years in the rear-view mirror and he should pass the 30-cap mark by the time the Euro 2016 campaign is done and dusted. In Ireland’s case, that still looks like being next month after the last group game, against Poland.
Coleman needs a kickstart on the international scene and so Ireland whose excessive caution and inability to break down opponents predated the Martin O’Neill era and hasn’t shown any sign of abating since the Derryman’s heralded appointment. That lack of thrust – and maybe trust in the players – is clearly holding the side back. With Robbie Brady plying his trade on the opposite side of the defence at left-back, Ireland have two of their most creative players spending the majority of their time protecting their goal rather than raiding someone else’s. Can a side with such limited means really afford that? Shouldn’t a way be found to extract the maximum from the gifts that pair possess?
The time has come to be bold. Or, who knows, they may actually scrape into that third place play-off. Ireland may even succeed in not looking so out-of-depth at a 24-team European Championship should they get there, as they did at the 16-team event in 2012, but then that would be just another example of how more can sometimes be less.
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