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29th Mar 2023

‘It was a free hit’ – Damien Delaney and Ian Harte on Ireland’s performance against France

Robert Redmond

:siren:NEW PODCAST ALERT:siren:

In episode one of our new podcast House of Football our co-hosts Eric Lalor and Damien Delaney sat down with ex Leeds United and Irish international Ian Harte to discuss Ireland vs France and much more.

Stephen Kenny’s team lost their opening Euro 2024 qualifier against the beaten World Cup finalists at the Aviva Stadium on Monday night.

Benjamin Pavard scored the only goal of the game, capitalising on a loose pass by Josh Cullen before scoring from 20 yards out with a powerful strike.

Ireland almost equalised with a header from a corner in the final minute, but France goalkeeper Mike Maignan pulled off a world-class save.

Delaney and Harte praise Ireland, but concerns remain.

Former Ireland defender Delaney has previously voiced reservations about the team’s results under Kenny, but was impressed with Ireland’s performance in the match

“I think it was an exceptional performance,” Delaney said on House of Football, SportsJOE’s new football podcast.

“It really was, against the number one or number two ranked team in the world, I know they got to the final and they were a kick of the ball away from the winner.

“So, we did everything that an Irish team you’d expect of an Irish team. We defended resolutely in numbers. There was a strength in numbers, a comfort with that, and then we picked and chose our moments on the break.

“We managed to get to 81, 82 minutes at one nil, and then the cavalry came on and, you know, we could have nicked it.

“So, it was an exceptional performance. Very, very unlucky.”

The former Crystal Palace defender, however, said that the display was fitting with Ireland’s performances against higher-ranked teams in the past.

And, ultimately, it was something of a ‘free-hit’ against a world-class side no one expected them to beat.

If Ireland are to reach Euro 2024, it will be the performances against the other sides in the group – the Netherlands, Greece and Gibraltar – that will decide their fate.

The former Ireland defenders said that Kenny’s team must show the same level of performance against the teams they’re in direct competition with.

“The Irish lads are never going to throw the towel in,” Delaney said.

“The Irish are never not going to fight, kick and scream for their country. They are always going to do it.

“So, you almost have to separate that game and say that it was brilliant and it’s great for the fans that they get all that feel-good factor and everyone loves it.

“But I think those games are separate, right? They’re like one-offs. They’re brilliant for the fans. They’re great for us. But our bread and butter are the teams ranked in pot two with us, or pot 3 and 4, and pot five.”

Ireland’s need for results.

The conversation then switched to the need for Ireland to get positive results.

Kenny’s supporters have praised the Ireland manager for helping to develop a more modern style of football, where the team are more comfortable in possession.

While this warrants praise, Delaney and Harte said that the team’s style of play should not be prioritised over results, and at times it feels like this has been the case.

“You cannot prioritise one over the other. Both are equally as important,” Delaney said.

“If you want to do that, go manage in youth team football and develop players because that’s what that youth team football is about.

“He is the senior men’s international manager. Halfway through the last campaign, he went well, ‘I’m building for Germany 2026’.

“Hang on a second, like, you know what I mean, You can’t just write it off.”

The pundits also noted that Ireland got results against higher-ranked teams in the past, beat lower-ranked teams and played good football at times.

Delaney feels there has been something of a ‘re-writing’ of Irish football history.

“I remember playing in games against Northern Ireland and we won 4-0, played some unbelievable stuff playing against Georgia, played some great stuff, really good football,” he said.

“So, I just think it’s the rewriting a little bit of Irish football history.”

“People even going back to say Jack (Charlton), people say the football was crap,” Harte said.

“Jack got results. He got results, results because I think Jack was Jack was brilliant, a national treasure and he got us to our first World Cup. Mick (McCarthy) got results.”

“Of course, Steven is doing well, but I think he’s disregarding an awful lot… like, I was in a squad that went to Italy and got a 1-1 draw – I think they were world champions at the time,” Delaney said.

“I remember John O’Shea scoring in Germany. I remember Shane Long scoring against Germany. And we played some good football.”

Ireland’s next match in the Euro 2024 qualification group is away to Greece on June 16, before hosting Gibraltar at home on June 19.

Eric Lalor and Damien Delaney are joined by Ireland and Leeds legend Ian Harte on the first episode of the House of Football.

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