Advertising can be a tricky business. Events can pass you by, moods can swing to the extent that campaigns that looked to be a good idea at inception can appear dated even as the billboards are being fitted with the latest offerings.
So it was yesterday that Martin O’Neill sat next to a poster promoting tonight’s qualifier against Moldova that declared ‘NOW IS THE TIME’ in big, bold capital letters and with the stern faces of John O’Shea and Robbie Brady staring out.
Neither will be key men tonight.
Though O’Shea started and finished the opener away to Serbia, his input since has been limited to a brief cameo in injury-time at home to Georgia a year ago and another 90 minutes against Wales in March thanks largely to injuries to others.
Brady, of course, is suspended for this evening’s leg and, with Jeff Hendrick and Jonathan Walters also reduced to the status of spectators, the onus tonight will fall on players less accustomed to such pivotal roles.
Cyrus Christie will get another go at deputising for Seamus Coleman, for one, and O’Neill spoke yesterday with confidence of some of the fresher faces in the squad who may be called in. But there is a need for lieutenants to push on up to the higher ranks, too.
David Meyler sat beside his gaffer yesterday, arms folded and with an air of determination that will be replicated if he is again called on to fill the breach in the centre of midfield where O’Neill has a few critical decisions to make.
The Hull City player was parachuted into the midfield for the visit of Serbia to Dublin last month after the draw in Georgia and, though Ireland lost 1-0, his input was commended. Lengthy shifts against Wales and Austria have produced efforts of similar and even greater value.
Meyler finds himself at an interesting post in his international journey. O’Neill has intimated a desire to stay on beyond this campaign regardless of results and the Cork man has been used as a starter, as a sub and sometimes not at all.
The squad will need new leaders soon. He, clearly, can be one of them.
“Look, you can talk about importance but I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve played games under the previous manager. He knows I’m available wherever he wants me to play, I played right-back for him before, at club level, I played centre-half for him.
“Wherever he needs me to play, I’ll play. He knows that and I’ll give it everything I have. Likewise with the rest of the squad. We’re all there, we all want to play and we’re all focused on tomorrow. It’s a big game. We’ll make sure we get the three points.” That kind of talk is to be welcomed.
O’Neill has been criticised for his team’s recent performances as much as the poor results but there is clearly an opening for a player with the courage to lead on both sides of the ball.
“With the manager they’re just encouraging us to go out and perform. As the manager said, once we cross that line it’s up to us to perform. They can only do so much. We’re well-prepared, we’ve looked at Moldova all week and it’s up to us now to go out and get the result.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved