Eamon Dunphy couldn't resist one last Wes Hoolahan dig in latest Martin O'Neill rant
We learned a few things from Ireland's defeat to Turkey on Friday night. Declan Rice is the future, James McClean definitely has a future (but it's certainly not at left wing-back) and this Ireland team still very much looks like a Martin O'Neill Ireland team.
It's only one game, yes, but it was still a revealing one. Rice, who was rightly named the man of the match after impressing at both centre-back and in midfield, revealed that he didn't know he was playing until the night of the game.
Well of course he didn't. O'Neill leaves his players in suspense before revealing the team close to kick-off. While he could have picked it earlier and arranged a few training sessions accordingly, old habits made for a performance lacking in creativity, cohesion and endeavour.
Richie Sadlier wasn't overly impressed and neither was Eamon Dunphy. Speaking on RTÉ 2fm following the game, the veteran pundit launched into another stinging dressing down of the current Ireland set-up.
His polemic was not without legitimate points, however.
"They tried new players and he had a partnership up front of Hogan and Maguire," said Dunphy. "Neither of them are tall and we are pumping long balls up to them. It's mad, it really is mad. If you play Maguire and Hogan, there is no point pumping long balls up to them. They need the ball played to feet. They are not using the attributes they have.
"This is the football of yesterday or, in fact, the day before yesterday. We are not playing a particularly good side, the lads are doing their best, but there is no sign that Ireland will change.
"It should be the beginning of a new era, but it is very, very hard to see Martin O'Neill changing the way he wants to play. I mean, he played James McClean in a left back position in Turkey. James McClean is not a left back. he is a very dangerous left winger.
“If Hoolahan didn’t stir something in you, then you were watching the wrong sport” https://t.co/KYkghKjCew
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) February 12, 2018
And then came the kicker. The all-time Dunphy punch-line. Yes, bringing it back to Wes.
"At least he has no Wes (Hoolahan) to get rid of now and that makes life easier for him."
Hoolahan announced his retirement from international football in February. It's been about six weeks but Dunphy still can't accept how his favourite player was marginalised at times during an international career that yielded just 43 caps in nine years.
The 35-year-old had been long seen as the creative spark in this Ireland side and, when he confirmed he was hanging up his boots, it did make one wonder where the inspiration and craft in midfield would come from next.
Rice seems more than capable of being Hoolahan's successor as the primary string-puller but it remains to be seen if O'Neill sees him as someone who can influence the game in the final third or the next leader in defence.