61 seconds, 23 passes: Total football that shows Stephen Kenny was right
Remember that time Croatia got to the World Cup final?
Remember when we were comparing their population with ours and, perhaps most depressingly, their football.
The ink on Robbie Keane's retirement statement isn't even dry yet and already we have forgotten about players produced by this island and representing this country only a decade ago. Players like Keane. Like his namesake Roy. Like another one of the Premier League greats, Damien Duff.
Somewhere along the way, the Irish have accepted second class citizenship and decided to simply watch what the English were doing and agree that we can try it but we'll just do it a little worse.
No wonder we're often lumped in with the 'British' style of play. Tough, physical, defensive, basic. The old idea of football in England is that they get stuck in, they had spirit and, to win games, the primary task was merely to be 'up for it'. That spilled across the Irish Sea and, soon, there wasn't much more expected of a team in green other than passion and fight.
Stephen Kenny wanted the Ireland job - not in 2020, but this year - because he believed in a better way. He believed we were naive to be copying an outdated English model - a country where Wolves and Man City, two of the best footballing teams with the best footballing managers, won their two top leagues last season and where the international setup is trying to follow suit. Ireland continued to limit itself though.
But Kenny's piece in the Irish Times really railed against that idea.
"Do I think that I could take charge of the next generation of Irish players and turn them into a really cohesive team; combining the best virtues of Irish sides – the honesty, work-rate and passion that we’ve shown down the years – but introducing a more European style of play, a more fluid and expansive way? Yes, I do.
"Midfield players love to be able to join in, to receive it on the half-turn, link with their front players, there must be movement off the line from wide players, full backs overlapping, connections..."
In Derry, Institute is a football club that has always produced quality football.
From the days of Paul Kee's 4-3-3, the Irish League outfit are a banker for an entertaining Saturday afternoon. They play football on the deck, they try to work it through the opposition and they get results on a shoestring budget.
Paddy McLaughlin - who was one of Kee's standout servants - is now the manager at Riverside - although they're currently playing their home games in the Brandywell. And McLaughlin has taken it to the next level.
Institute are competing well in the top flight of the Northern Ireland system and they drew 3-3 with Glentoran at the weekend. Their first goal was a thing of beauty.
— Kevin McLaughlin (@kevymac77) December 8, 2018
Eventually turned into their own net, the Glens couldn't cope with 'Stute's possession football.
For 61 seconds, the Derry outfit strung together 23 passes and did the vast majority of them in the opposition half as they aggressively tried to thread away through the defence. Just once a Glentoran player got a toe to a ball but Institute continued the assault with tight, brave passes with no-one - absolutely nobody - hiding.
Every player wanted it, they showed in tight areas and they too the ball with men up their arses and with superb control.
The result was the below.
If this was Barcelona or Man City it would be shown everywhere, but the build up to @Institute_FC's first goal yesterday was superb. Credit to @paddymac1979, his backroom team & his players at working on & producing this type of football #TR pic.twitter.com/5gf2eBSmIG
— Kevin McLaughlin (@kevymac77) December 9, 2018
And people will still tell you this island shouldn't be playing ball.
The eighth ranked team in the Northern Ireland league can produce something Man City would be proud of.
It just needs to be allowed to filter up.