The Problems In Irish Football

I overheard a conversation between two football fans today; the gist of it was that Roy Keane had forgotten that the fans paid his wages as a player. They concluded that Roy was an idiot for suggesting that Irish fans need to adjust their acceptance of performances. To me this is a perfectly reasonable statement.

I believe what Keane was getting at is simply that losing four nil is not acceptable. Losing 3-1 to Croatia in the manner that the Irish did was not acceptable either.  To say the team did the nation proud would be an extraordinarily flattering comment that simply isn’t true. Yes, the fans paid Roy’s wages, the fans also pay mishaps like Glen Whelan’s wages and the return they get is zilch. It is the question that any fan out there singing needs to ask themselves, drinking aside, did they enjoy the tournament? I wasn’t drinking and the answer is a resounding NO.

There is a sect of fans blaming the manager, again I don’t agree. The players are simply not good enough for a start. The blame must rest solely with FAI, and their astonishing believe that anything is right in Irish football. In recent seasons, the coaching curriculum has been adjusted to that of a Dutch ideology. That in itself may seem promising, but until it is put into practise at the ground level of Irish football, the effects of such an endeavour will never see the light of day. While younger coaches are learning the new system, which itself still leaves a lot to be desired, the men running football in this country are still from the Jurassic erroneous Charles Hughes era of the game.

The recent inclination of English clubs to shop abroad, where flair and creativity is in abundance is not helping the Irish cause either. Ireland is reliant on English football to produce players for their national team. The league in Ireland is not of a high enough standard and does not have the right sort of investment to produce a starting eleven at international level.  Again, the problem falls on the doorstep of the FAI: while they have implanted a new coaching curriculum, they are happier paying astronomical wages to a coach that is not in keeping with these ideals.

The one shining light in this new ‘Dutch influenced’ coaching scheme is the addition of the word transition to the Irish footballing vocabulary. Football is not just about attacking or defending, there is constant transitions going on.

16 thoughts on “The Problems In Irish Football”

  1. Great article.

    The FAI are corrupt, and the Irish team will never contend at major tournaments with the way Irish football is being run.

  2. I think the problem is the the overall tactical philosophy Eire has had the last 20 years, which is: “we score one, they score less.”

    Even under the heights of Charlton, that was the case. There is no reason Ireland can’t be at the standard of Denmark, or even Greece but they have to take the blinders off of their football.

    1. I don’t disagree with your overall post, but I do think Ireland have an additional problem that neither Denmark nor Greece face.

      Many of Ireland’s best athletes choose to compete in Gaelic games or rugby, both of which are arguably more popular. In a small country this sucking away of talent is particularly damaging to attempts at creating a quality pool of soccer players domestically or internationally.

      I would imagine youth soccer coaches in Ireland face the same kind of frustration we here in the States do in trying to get the best athletes to play for them. It is a tall order and certainly not helped if the FA isn’t up to the task.

      1. I agree Guy, when you have a country that has sports that are a lot more popular than soccer then you have the problem that Ireland have. It is almost like the US but it is magnified by the fact that Ireland is way smaller than the US.

      2. I disagree with this ‘we lose too many of our best players to other sports’ canard, especially in the Irish context. It is a convenient excuse when things don’t go well. Compare the Czech Republic to Ireland. The Czech soccer team is miles ahead of Ireland in terms of developing players yet it is not even the most popular sport in the country, which is ice hockey. The Czechs have won an olympic gold medal in hockey and have dozens of stars in the NHL so you could also say that they too lose their best athletes to other sports but yet they still seem to compete at the highest level. I recognize that the Czech Rep. is about twice the size of Ireland but I think my point is valid regardless.

        Beyond that, I think a professional organization (and I use that term loosely with the FAI) should not fall back up the fact that it has to compete with an amateur organization (and I use that term loosely with the GAA) for talent. At the end of the day, Ireland just isn’t talented enough to compete at these high levels. Fortunately, with the UEFA Euro tourney expanding to 24 teams in 2016, I expect Ireland to qualify more frequently moving forward and that may allow them to use it as a focal point in overhauling the entire program, which is necessary. Find young talent, invest in it, train and support them and the results will be there. It may take 15 to 20 years, but it will happen. The days if taking the marginal leftovers from the diaspora in Britain need to be confined to history.

        1. “I recognize that the Czech Rep. is about twice the size of Ireland but I think my point is valid regardless.”

          Howzat? The fact that the Czech Republic has 6 million more people than Ireland is immaterial? Well, OK.

          You may disagree with the “splintering of the talent pool” idea, but that hardly makes it a “canard”. In a country as small as Ireland it certainly has an impact that adds difficulty to other negative factors enumerated by both you and others. It should not be used as an excuse, but recognized as an additional challenge in trying to advance the quality of football in Ireland. In any event, the FAI apparently isn’t up to it one way or another.

  3. The first thing about Ireland is how small it is, we Americans tend to forget that in America because Irish immigration was substantial (and throws Northern Ireland into the mix too). There are only 4 million people, a fraction of other nations in the tourney and making Croatia performance an outlier. Good for them.

    Second, look at Ireland’s line-up. This contains only one “star” on the downside of his career, Robbie Keane, and a bunch of players from clubs like Wigan, Blackburn and SPL clubs. Now watch them play half the lineup of Barcelona and Real Madrid and assume they’ll have a real chance.

    Getting to the Euro’s or World Cup is the accomplishment, doing well in them is expecting near miracles.

  4. Got nowhere else to put this but Gaffer are you doing to do a post about the fixtures which were released today? I know we’ve all seen them already but would be good for people to comment and talk up how their season will shape up etc

    1. Thanks Paul. Great idea. I’ve been trying to think of a good twist on the fixtures, and yours is a good one. I’ll post something shortly.

      The Gaffer

  5. Ireland don’t have a lot of players, usually they pick up English rejects that have an Irish Grandparent. You can’t blame them for that because as others have said, they only have 3-4 million people to choose from. However, English rejects and a few players that are born in Ireland is hardly going to win any world cups, especially when the player choice is further limited by having to compete against other sports.
    Maybe Roy Keane is expecting too much of them, for the size of the country I think getting to the Euro’s in an achievement for Ireland. I wasn’t expecting much from them, the decent players like Duff and Keane are past it and the others are pretty average

  6. Some of the selections/lack thereof were a bit puzzling – like their was no place among their unimpressive roster of attackers for Anthony Pilkington? I might be biased because I remember seeing the guy play way back in the something like the 10th division (Atherton Collieries) and thinking he had top-flight potential.

    But the point is he played for their U21 team a few years back and a guy who can score 8 goals in the EPL last year would seem to need to have a place on that squad. Especially when something like 2 of their guys didn’t even play on the professional level last year.

  7. Ever since WC 94, I’ve enjoyed Irish football and especially their fans. That being said, I don’t have very high expectations for them. They are a small country, and have a hard time recruiting players of non-irish birth to come live in the country and work their way into the national team. I think they did well to qualify for Euro, and whilst they landed in a tough group, I think they might have fared better if they had somehow landed in Group A (maybe). They can consider themselves one of the top 16 teams in Europe, and for that they should be proud.

  8. As others said, Ireland is hampered by its small population. It’s even smaller than Israel and Hong Kong.
    Ireland only conceded four against Spain. Put Israel or Hong Kong against Spain you can easily have a basketball score. Heck, even the Ladyboy can score a hat trick :)

  9. A good start would be scrapping the IFA & FAI and having a unified Irish team, unfortunately because of a few morons in the north it will never happen.

    1. This is a no-brainer and should be done post-haste. If Ireland can have unified rugby and golf teams for int’l competitions, why not soccer as well? On top of it all, the IFA regularly loses the best talent from nationalist areas to the FAI (James McClean, etc.) as well.

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