Niall Quinn believes that Jeff Hendrick, the biggest Irish mover in the transfer window, has got what it takes to become the main man in the national team.
“There’s no doubt about it, I think he was the most surprising good news story of the team in the summer,” says the Irish legend. “You knew (Robbie) Brady had this great skill, you knew what (Shane) Long and players like that could bring to the table, but very few of us foresaw Hendrick stepping up to the plate the way he did at the Euros.
“And he just has to carry that on now and try to think of himself as somebody who could go all the way and be the main man in the Irish team, galvanising midfield. They’re the targets that people like him should set himself.”
With Robbie Keane’s farewell sharpening the focus on Ireland’s limited striking options, Quinn also reckons that Daryl Murphy’s surprise transfer from Ipswich to Newcastle United could turn out to be a big plus for the player and the country.
“Daryl has got the most brilliant move at a point in his career when a lot of players will be looking over their shoulders to going backwards,” he observes. “This is a huge adventure for him to go and play at Newcastle to play in front of 52,000 people for the rest of the season.”
The 33-year-old Murphy, of course, is a striker who has still to open his Irish goal account after 23 appearances. “I would have a sympathy for Daryl in that he is asked to do the tough stuff — back to goal, two centre-halves prodding you all over place, referees giving you nothing,” says Quinn. “I’ve been that soldier and it’s a tough task but he carries that burden well.
“Listen, I missed a great chance on my debut for Ireland against Czechoslovakia as they were known then. And it played on my mind until I eventually scored the last goal in a game against Israel in Dalymount Park — a long, long time ago! In that period in between — it was something like a year and a half to two years — it kind of eats away at you, no doubt about that.
“I think it’s time for Daryl to get a little bit selfish and look after number one now, and maybe one time in three or four, instead of showing - of going out, of laying the ball off and watching someone cross it in for a Robbie or a Shane Long - he should be selfish, peel off to the far post, make life a little bit different in terms of creating chances for himself. Ask John Aldridge, he will tell you the same thing.”
Niall Quinn will be on duty for Sky Sports when they cover Ireland’s opening World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade on Monday, a match he regards as potentially the single most important of the whole campaign.
“This is actually the key game and it comes on the first day. I think it’s going to be the toughest place to go for a lot of teams. I wouldn’t be disappointed with a draw.
“The way things are going to work out, anyone who does well in Serbia could qualify.”
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