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11th Jun 2019

‘Jeff Hendrick was anonymous tonight… we didn’t see him’ – Liam Brady

Patrick McCarry

Jeff Hendrick

Jeff Hendrick was the best Irish player at Euro 2016 as he stood up remarkably well to the Swedes, Belgians, Italians and French.

Three years on and that tournament remains a highlight for the Dubliner, both personally and in terms of his performance levels.

There have been a couple of niggling injuries over the past few years but Hendrick has been a consistent starter for Burnley in the Premier League. In his three seasons at the club, since securing a move from Derby soon after the European Championships, Hendrick has played 32, 34 and 32 league games for Sean Dyche’s side.

He has played 21 more times for Ireland since Euro 2016 and has scored against Serbia and Gibraltar. There have been some decent performances over the past three years but, and Hendrick may admit to this himself, he has not kicked on as many would have hoped.

That championship ended with defeat to eventual finalists France but the then 24-year-old had held his own against the likes of Paul Pogba, Thiago Motta, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne. Along with Robbie Brady, Hendrick was heralded as the future of an Irish team that would fear no opponent and show that they could play some ball while they were at it.

Hendrick did get Ireland’s winner away to Gibraltar but he has otherwise failed to impose himself on Ireland’s campaign to reach Euro 2020.

David McGoldrick, second right, is congratulated by team-mate Scott Hogan after Ireland’s first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

After their opening win of the qualifiers, the player himself acknowledged the need for him to be a go-to player in the centre of the pitch as well as an attacking threat:

“I have started off with a goal there. I am aiming to get more goals and that’s what I am trying to do. I’ll try to get into the box more often, get onto the end of balls in and around the box and shoot more.”

Easier said than done, it would appear, but Hendrick – this past week – was at the end of another long season. In the 2-0 win over Gibraltar, Conor Hourihane was the one with the raking passes and the one barking for the ball. Hendrick was tidy but far too sedate.

In the post-match analysis on RTE, former Ireland playmaker Liam Brady commented:

“Hendrick over the two games against Denmark and tonight was anonymous, we didn’t see him. That was an opportunity for me that was missed to see if that lad [Matt Doherty] can play midfield because, take Coleman out of the equation it’s probably Doherty who’s our best player.”

When a man of Brady’s footballing calibre starts suggesting a fullback might be the better way of adding some drive to the midfield, it is worth noting.

Irish fans have long held high hopes for Hendrick, ever since Giovanni Trappatoni gave him his debut – a fortnight after he had turned 21 – in February 2013.

We don’t ask for too much from our footballers, in terms of being world-beaters at least, but fans would just love that 2016 Hendrick vintage back. Brave, hungry for the ball and a probing, pulsing midfield presence.

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