What we learned
Nothing has changed
There can be no getting away from the fact 2018 has been an annus horribilis for Martin O’neill and his senior international squad. An opportunity to use the Uefa Nations League as a potentially easier route to Euro 2020 has proven a dreadful disappointment, downgrading Ireland to third seeds in the upcoming championship draw.
Joe Schmidt’s international rugby setup going from strength to strength has only heightened the growing sense of frustration surrounding a football team low on morale and short on ideas.
The buck stops with Martin O’neill and his backroom team. It has to. Twelve months on from a World Cup play-off hammering at the hands of Monday night’s opponents, yet nothing has That alone should be reason enough for the FAI to begin exploring alternative managerial options.
Still no identity
Last night’s performance was symptomatic of recent efforts, but the problems facing Martin O’neill remain the same. Again, Ireland conceded the majority of possession to their opponents, had no creative spark or midfielders with the conviction to try and make something happen.
O’neill took charge of Ireland back in 2013 and is responsible for delivering some unforgettable memories. Yet, last night’s encounter with Denmark confirmed that Ireland has lost its identity under their current manager.
O’neill will argue that he is doing the best he can with limited resources, but lack of a basic shape, positive game-plan or simple belief means Ireland’s international players are now regressing under his stewardship.
Different starters, same ending
O’neill persisted with his favoured 3-5-2 formation, despite a sometimes erratic defensive display against Northern Irechanged. land. Richard Keogh and Kevin Long came into the back three, but it was Enda Stevens who impressed the most.
Deputising for a suspended James Mcclean, the 28-year-old Sheffield United defender enhanced his future international prospects with a competent display on the left flank.
The same cannot be said for Cyrus Christie, who looked completely out of sorts in a central midfield role.
Aiden O’brien worked hard up front, but got zero help from an Irish team intent on containing rather than taking the game to their opponents.
Neither Christie nor O’brien should be faulted for their efforts or their willingness to play in such unaccustomed roles. Randolph the one bright spark
The emergence of Darren Randolph as a dependable international keeper has been one of the few positives from the Republic’s UEFA Nations League campaign. The Middlesbrough shot-stopper’s consistent performances have been in stark contrast to an Irish defence incapable of keeping a clean sheet in over half of their international outings this past year.
Randolph reinforced his importance to the O’neill’s setup with a fine stop to prevent Peter Ankersen’s shot from finding the net during the opening half. He rode his luck at times but a clean sheet was just reward for an Irish goalkeeper who has made the number one jersey his own.