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11th Oct 2015

Ireland are better without Glenn Whelan and four other talking points from Warsaw

Not good enough

Robert Redmond

So it’s a play-off then.

After the euphoria of Thursday night, the Republic of Ireland suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Poland. Martin O’Neill made five changes to the team that beat Germany on Thursday, and it showed.

James McClean and Robbie Brady struggled, John O’Shea had a night to forget against Robert Lewandowski while the team looked like it had suffered a lobotomy because of Wes Hoolahan’s absence.

It could be argued that O’Neill got his team selection wrong, and Ireland will have to improve if we’re to make it to the Euros next summer.

Here’s five talking points from tonight’s game:

Ireland can’t afford to be without Wes Hoolahan

Yes, Martin O’Neill said before the game that Hoolahan had complained about a sore heal. However, could the Ireland manager not have tried to convince Ireland’s only creative midfielder to play such a crucial game?

It could be argued that if O’Neill really wanted Hoolahan in the team, he would’ve pushed him to start. Without looking to echo Eamon Dunphy, this could point to an inherent distrust of the player by his manager.Wes Hoolahan sits out training 10/10/2015Ireland appeared brainless without their playmaker. Against Germany Hoolahan was always there to relieve the pressure on Ireland’s overworked midfield, tonight, in a frantic, scrappy game Hoolahan’s absence was glaring.

The Norwich midfielder tried to impose himself on the game when he came on after 70 minutes, but by then the game had descended into a frantic mess.

The team is better without Glenn Whelan

This can’t happen to an international midfielder.whelan 1

It looked like James McClean had started because he won a raffle

O’Neill always has one surprising selection and tonight it was James McClean. The Derry winger had a nightmare, and was lucky to last 70 minutes, not only because put in an awful performance, but he also received an early, needless booking.

So naturally, McClean goes and puts in another needless challenge, before O’Neill showed mercy and took him off for Hoolahan.mcclean 2

In an aimless frantic game, devoid of quality, the last thing Ireland needed was an aimless, frantic winger, devoid of any quality.

McClean lost the ball constantly, failed to link up with Robbie Brady at left-back and it’s telling that both of Poland’s goals came from attacks down Ireland’s left side.

McClean can look like a world beater, or like a Sunday league player, tonight it was undoubtedly the latter. Ireland don’t have a lot of players to select from, but there has to be serious doubt about whether McClean is good enough to play international football.

We need to talk about Robbie Brady

For a player who’s meant to be a set-piece specialist, Brady takes an awful lot of poor set-pieces. Like in the reverse fixture against Poland, Brady was very wasteful over the dead-ball.

It’s hard to remember one decent ball Brady put into the box during the entire 90 minutes. The Dubliner was also sloppy in possession, like most Irish players, but Brady was more guilty than most.

Brady’s concentration appears to let him down. The Dubliner commits an awful lot of unforced errors and his night was summed up by this terrible piece of control, late in the game, that led to John O’Shea being sent-off.

brady o'shea

A play-off awaits

This time last week, Ireland fans would’ve been delighted with a place in the play-offs. After the disappointment of the June 1-1 draw with Scotland, O’Neill’s side appeared destined to end up in fourth position.

However, after Scotland’s collapse to Georgia, and Ireland’s stunning victory over Germany, expectations rose and we were just a goal away from automatic qualification against Poland tonight.

We now face a play-off and, other than fortunate draws against Iran and Estonia, Ireland have struggled at this stage. Under Jack Charlton, Ireland lost to Holland in 1995 for a spot at the European Championships.John O'Shea dejected after being sent off 11/10/2015Mick McCarthy’s side lost to Belgium and Turkey, while we all remember the game against France when Giovanni Trapattoni was in-charge.

It’s unclear whether Ireland will be seeded for next week’s draw, but we’re going to need all the luck we can get judging by our previous play-off record and our record against Scotland and Poland in this group.

In four games against sides of similar quality, Ireland only gained two points.

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