Time to forget Kerr-fuffle and get job Dunne

IF Ireland fail to get three points at Lansdowne Road tomorrow night, many will wonder why we were so caught up in the idea of rearranging deck chairs while the Titanic was sinking.

For more than a week now, the country's World Cup fate has somehow slipped into the obscurity of sub-plot status with the Brian Kerr-FAI deadlock spreading like a virus all over the sports pages.

At yesterday's player press conference in Portmarnock, seven and a half minutes elapsed before the word 'Switzerland' was mentioned.

Richard Dunne answered 17 questions in all, six of which were about the uncertainty surrounding the manager's situation. Only four related to either tomorrow's game or tomorrow's opponents.

Considering the ammo built up through events on and off the field over the past seven days, Dunne and Matt Holland were potentially entering a minefield when they sat down at the top table yet the Manchester City defender was especially adept at disarming any loaded questions.

If he rebuffs the Swiss with the same ease tomorrow we'll be laughing. The FAI-Kerr spat was not something the players need to become embroiled in he insisted.

He also refused to rise to the bait when questioned about Fintan Drury's comments over the squad's quality, or lack of it.

"It's just an annoyance really. It feels like everything has been focused on the manager's contract or who's going to be the next manager. With the importance of the games we've had on Saturday and now on Wednesday, it doesn't feel like we've been getting much support, through the press.

Everything seems to be negative. It's a big week for us. We need everyone behind us. We want you (the media) on our side."

On the evidence of Saturday's showing in Nicosia, Ireland will need all the help they can get. Transforming that team into one capable of beating Switzerland in the space of four days may yet prove to be about as realistic as asking the QE2 to do a u-turn on the Liffey.

Identifying the problem will be as hard as rectifying it but, whatever the reasons behind Ireland's wretchedness at the weekend, Dunne is forceful in his opinion that tension was not one of them.

"It was just one of those nights and you have them. The one thing that you can do when that happens is hope that you can win the game. As much as we have been criticised for our performance we've done our job. We weren't out to impress anyone, we were just there to get the three points.

"We wanted to make sure that we had something to play for come Wednesday. That was our target and that's what we've done. Had we played well and not got the points it would have been all over for us."

It still could be come Thursday morning if Ireland fail to overcome Damien Duff's absence

"We've just got to get on with it. We miss Roy Keane as well. There's different tactics now. We don't have to rely on Damien so much. We tend to sit back and see what Damien can produce. Maybe with him not there it's up to other players to become more creative and to kick us on a bit."

For Ireland, a win tomorrow is more than the opportunity to secure a playoff place. More even than a chance to loosen the noose around their manager's neck. Beating the Swiss, and eliminating them in the process, would be sweet indeed given recent history.

"It's been them twice who have held us back a bit. It's a big game," said Dunne with typical footballer's understatement. "They're probably coming on a high. They've had good results against us recently. They'll be thinking they can do it again, knock us out of the World Cup. We've been disappointing against the Swiss and we definitely do owe them."

On paper, it seems a battle among equals but the two sides will take to the field with widely different weeks behind them.

Ireland have never beaten a side anywhere near Switzerland's calibre in competition under Kerr but Dunne is adamant that is a statistic they are more than capable of changing.

"They're a very good side. They drew with France home and away. They're the only team who have had a convincing win throughout the group that 6-0 win (against the Faroe Islands). They're a side we're able to beat if we can get everyone on their game on the night.

"If everyone can get on their game from the first kick, win the first tackle, get the crowd on our side, everyone pushing in the right direction I'm sure everyone will. It's our last chance. We have to give it everything."

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