The Irish would have needed parachutes if they did get to the long ball in the first place. It was ridiculous. It didn’t look like a game of football, never mind a World Cup qualifier. Ireland do not deserve to go to Germany playing such a style. The long ball took ages to come down, and when it did it went right back to where it came from. Back to Shay Given.
With that 30 seconds left Soccer Scene was out the door but upon exit onto Bleecker was stopped in our tracks. Outside the Red Lion it dawned that Ireland had gone backwards in football. Goalie Given had just spent the last 20 minutes or so sending long balls onto the French back line. It was unbelievable. In fact it seemed that Given had spent the entire second half hitting route one with no attacking plan to drive the ball home on the end of his kicks.
As the Irish filtered out of the Red Lion it was time to move on and make the track home to Long Island. West on Bleecker heading towards the West 4th Street subway we bumped into two Dubs who were flying through New York and decided to catch the game. There was no need for introductions. All parties were way too disappointed for that carry on.
Usually it’s not such a long walk from Greenwich Village to Penn Station.
But for two Dubs visiting New York it may well have been. The aftermath of a horrendous game by Ireland in the second half of this 2006 World Cup qualifier didn’t leave much room for idle chat. There wasn’t even room for formalities. It was straight to analysis for the seemingly two very disgruntled jet setters passing through the Big Apple.
“As far as I can see, it’s a two-man show,” said the first Dub. “Roy Keane and John O’Shea are all we had at the game today. It was terrible to see us going back to the long ball wasn’t it? Robbie Keane did nothing and Damien Duff was not in the game enough. What were we thinking of? Our forwards were probably the smallest men on the field. A friend of mine told me that the French are mostly six foot tall. Terrible. I don’t know what Kevin Kilbane was doing in center midfield with Roy Keane. What did Kilbane do? What a horrible second half performance. Although at least we lost to a World Champion. But England, beaten by Northern Ireland. Still, we did well in the first half, but to come out like we did in the second was so disappointing.”
The visiting Dubliner was spot on. He was saying exactly the way it was. We had an empty feeling as we walked across Bleecker to West 4th Street subway station listening to the plea for the beautiful game. Belief, it seemed, had left this fan.
In butted the second Dub. “What’s the story bringing on Ian Harte? I guess he can send in long balls from the left side also. Moving O’Shea in to midfield was all good, but that should have happened earlier on. Even at the starting line it would have served us better in the middle of the park. There was only one center midfielder at the game for Ireland today. Then Gary Doherty went on up top; he couldn’t even turn. Where was Matty Holland?” (Holland was not on the bench but Steve Finnan was, a Champions League melalist.)
“We got it all wrong. Didn’t we,” continued Dub No. 2. “It was like watching the Ireland of old, when long ball is mostly what we played. Today we ran out of ideas. We have a very good player in Damien Duff and he only ran at the French maybe once or twice. We did not use him correctly. What a waste. Brian Kerr didn’t get the tactics right at all. I don’t know. What happened to us after such a good competitive first half? It was unbelievable.
He continued: “It’s very unlikely we will be going to Germany so we might as well make the most of Manhattan. We’re staying near Penn Station. The hotel is fine. We’re off to Paddy Reilly’s tonight for a few then its back to Dublin. Is it a long walk to Penn from here,” asked the visitors. “Not usually,” replied Soccer Scene. “But it might be today.”
We departed as strangers but one thing for sure was in common. We were not happy Irish supporters. It’s not rocket science to collect the ball and boot it long and deep into the opponents half. But we’re not booting it to Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino. It’s very unlikely that Coach Kerr told his team that they were going to carry this play out — the long ball. But carry it out they did. And for those who think the best of the Irish didn’t turn up with ace games, perhaps they might want to review that comment taking all things into consideration. I’m sure if you ask Robbie Keane and Damien Duff they would complain about the Irish possession game. Good constructive passing in to Keane and Duff brings out the best in them. As they showed in the 2002 World Cup in which both of them were outstanding.
These were the bemused thoughts running through Soccer Scene on the train ride back to Long Island from West 4th. Perhaps our friend, Tommy McPhillips could come up with some answers. Without hesitation it was off to the Big Mc for some feedback.
“You could even see it on Roy Keane’s face when Ireland began to play it long. Keane was disgusted. Kevin Kilbane played two passes in the first half that went backwards. I didn’t see him do much else. Duff could have done more in the first half. Our fans are caught up in getting stuck in and chasing things down. They get off their seats when they see Ireland tackling and being physical. Roy Keane was the only player we had today,” concluded Tommy. His son Kevin said simply: “Ireland needs a foreign manager.”