Whatever this was, friendly or competitive fare, it was carnage, writes. And who’s to say it will get any better?
Ryan Giggs, in his first ever competitive match as boss, has clearly opted to look upon the Nations League as an opportunity to experiment and maybe thought what better time to do than against a team in decline in Ireland.
While his counterpart certainly went what he thought was the best team available, including some questionable calls, Giggs chose his with an eye to the future.
James Chester, who his Aston Villa teammate Conor Hourihane declared in the run-up was a shoo-in to start, was left on the bench. Andy King, Sam Vokes and Paul Dummett — all Premier League stalwarts — joined him amongst the deputies.
Only Matt Doherty in the opposite bench has sampled top-flight minutes this season, yet his continual omission remains a mystery.
Bad enough that he hadn’t been integrated by now to replace the ageing and aching Stephen Ward, but he was overlooked in favour of Championship player Enda Stevens. Doherty is a Premier League regular who has proven himself at left-back. He must be wondering what’s he done wrong.
Strong, rugged and versatile, he doesn’t have the profile to become the new Wes Hoolahan in terms of selection debate. Still, it appears more than strange that by the age of 26, he’s still not started a game for his country.
More broadly, compared to the Welsh, the transition which was supposed to follow Ireland’s World Cup play-off massacre last November is in tatters. Just because only Wes Hoolahan, John O’Shea, and Daryl Murphy were the only retirees doesn’t mean some of the survivors shouldn’t have been cast aside.
Giggs would have been planning his revolution long before his homeland came
calling in January. Last night, six of his starting team were aged the following: 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25. Then he introduced an 18 and 19--year-old during the second half.
For Ireland, Callum Robinson — at 23 — was the youngest representative, and he’s only arrived on the scene after suddenly deciding he’s Irish.
Tom Lawrence and Connor Roberts, two of Giggs’ gamely graduates who both scored last night, were born in Wrexham and Neath respectively. They emerged through a structured system. It didn’t happen by accident. Even their English-born rising talent David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu were early converts. Unlike Declan Rice, they didn’t have doubts about their commitment all the way through to last night’s fixture which binds their allegiance permanently.
They’ve benefited from a curriculum of uniformity, now officially called ‘The Welsh Way’. The 90-page blueprint was the brainchild of Chris Coleman and his assistant Osian Roberts. Their new national football syllabus, distributed to every coach in the country last week, aims to provide a pathway for players from the first-kick to the national team.
It revolves around what Damien Delaney referred to as philosophy. That the Irish defender cited the Welsh system when giving his side of a disagreement with O’Neill sounded bizarre but he was unselfishly highlighting how the flaws of Irish football impede progress. What is the Irish philosophy?
Trying counteract the opposition comes to mind as the main strategy but that goes out to window when something unravels like last night, when the deadlock was broken after six minutes.
Plan B doesn’t feature in the lexicon.
Why do we have to wait for must-win matches like Italy at Euro 2016 and Germany on the way there to exhibit a degree of freedom of the pitch?
O’Neill must take his share of the blame but he’s at the tip of a dysfunctional operation. It was the same under Giovanni Trapattoni. Brian Kerr’s ideology, based around a decade of work behind the scenes, was chucked out the window on the day he was sacked in 2005. He hasn’t been asked for any input since.
Conversely, when Coleman departed last year, the script didn’t change. Giggs retains the services of his assistant Roberts. As well as assistant, he oversees their development programme. Nothing alters from U15 to senior level.
Last night’s embarrassment, just 10 months after the last one, should illustrate that the bomb detonated a long time ago. Sadly, without radical change at the top, there’s no sign of the gloom being lifted.