Three talking points after Ireland’s disappointing defeat to Greece

Three talking points after Ireland’s disappointing defeat to Greece

Written by James French…

Talking points from Ireland 0-2 Greece

In a weekend filled with disappointment for Irish sport, it was a feeling of the same old story for the Irish football team.

Five defeats in six qualifiers, regardless of the quality of the top two nations in our group, is poor.

In arguably Ireland’s worst performance this campaign, here are three reasons why it all went wrong for Kenny’s side.

Ireland Vs Greece: The 4-3-3 didn’t work

There were calls from much of the Irish support to switch from our usual three at the back formation to a more positive 4-3-3, a move that Kenny’s would opt for on Friday evening.

Ireland started very brightly with Evan Ferguson even hitting the post. Unfortunately however, when Greece took the lead it allowed Gus Poyet’s side to retreat into a deeper block – a development which posed Ireland the same questions as past disappointments against the likes of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In that context, a midfield trio of Josh Cullen, Alan Browne and Will Smallbone proved the main cause of self- destruction for Kenny. 

Although it was not Cullen’s best game, the selection of Smallbone who has predominantly played as a holding midfielder for his club this season, and Browne who lacks the technical capabilities to play in the centre of the park at international level, certainly did not help. 

Kenny has so far tried and failed with his trademark 4-3-3 system in his Irish tenure and that’s in no small part because of the shortage of players available to him who can operate in such a system 

The lack of dynamism and creativity at the heart of that midfield is one of the main problems facing Kenny, but a problem that could be eradicated in the near future.

Andrew Moran must be fast tracked into this Irish team

Brighton starlet Andrew Moran looks like he could be the answer to that exact issue of creativity facing Kenny and his Irish side.

Moran, who has excelled for club and country this season, was meant to join up with the Irish senior squad for the Gibraltar game tonight but an injury picked for the u21s against Latvia on Friday has prevented him from doing so. 

On loan at Blackburn, Moran was immense for the Irish 21s in there late 3-2 win over Turkey at Turners Cross last month, almost single handedly dragging his side back into the game after they went behind.

His direct dribbling and ability to create something out of nothing are attributes sorely lacking in this current Irish playing squad, making fast tracking him into the senior squad a necessity.

Ireland Vs Greece: The huge generation gap in the squad is a problem.

The average age of Ireland’s starting lineup against Greece on Friday was 25 years of age with Shane Duffy and Matt Doherty as significant outliers. 

Compare that to Greece’s average age which was 28. Age isn’t everything in football, but the huge age gap among the Irish squad is an issue that often goes unspoken.

It is largely accepted that football players hit their peak between the ages 27 and 29 but just two players fall into that category from the Irish side that started at the Aviva on Friday.

Due to a lack of organisation and funding into grassroots for a number of years by the FAI, Stephen Kenny has been left with an imbalanced squad in terms of age. 

This issue will resolve itself as time passes, but it is an issue that will remain for the next couple of years. 

The fruits of Kenny’s labour in trusting players under the age of 21 will be seen in the next number of years, as the likes of Nathan Collins, Jason Knight and Gavin Bazunu develop and hit their peaks.

 But for now, it is an issue Kenny or any incoming manager will have to deal with.