Roy Keane with a typically blunt assessment of Ireland.
Over the weekend, former Ireland midfielder and assistant coach Roy Keane was providing punditry work for ITV on the weekend’s fixtures in the Nations League and the conversation naturally turned to Ireland.
With Ireland’s match against Wales taking place on the same day as England’s game against Belgium at Wembley, the discussion turned to Ireland’s fortunes in the aftermath of the playoff defeat to Slovakia and their sluggish start under Stephen Kenny.
During the chat, Roy Keane stated his belief that Ireland’s new manager faces an uphill battle to change the way the team play and stated that there is a ‘real lack of quality’ in the squad he is working with.
“You look at the Ireland squad at the moment and the players coming through, there is a real lack of quality. It’s tough going. When you don’t have a goalscorer, you’re constantly under pressure as a team and as a manager.
“The last week has been tough with the poor result the other night (in Slovakia), players pulling out with coronavirus and without someone to put the ball in the net, you are always struggling. Only for Robbie Keane over the last 10, 15, 20 years, there has not been a regular goalscorer so you are constantly under pressure. It’s a major problem for Ireland, ” said Roy Keane.
The result against the Welsh means that the Republic of Ireland remain winless in seven UEFA Nations League matches (D4, L3) – some of which Keane was involved with in his coaching role – scoring just two goals across those games.
To put Keane’s comments into context, Ireland have scored just one goal in 390 minutes of football under their new manager, and that came from central defender Shane Duffy against Bulgaria.
However, Keane might be interested in knowing that Ireland has also only scored just 22 goals in their last 28 competitive matches, some of which he was involved on the coaching ticket.
While Kenny has been trying to implement a more possession-based and attacking brand of football, the absence of strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah in Slovakia due to Covid-19 protocols did not help.
To compound matters, the loss of five players on the morning of the Wales game due to Covid-related issues did not help too.
Keane’s ITV colleague Ian Wright backed up the sentiments of the former Manchester United midfielder, as he felt that Kenny’s efforts to re-brand the Ireland side won’t be helped by the lack of a goal threat.
“This manager’s remit is to play a different style of football with the players coming through. Even if you are playing a different brand of football, you have to put the ball in the net. It doesn’t matter how you play if you don’t put the ball in the net,” said Wright.
Ireland face Finland in Helsinki on Wednesday as they go in search of their first win in the Nations League.