The incident happened outside a hotel in Portmarnock, where he and his Republic of Ireland side were staying, ahead the friendly international against Holland. A spokesman for the FAI said soon after, “Staunton is absolutely fine and looking forward to training tomorrow.” Twenty-four hours later, Staunton was completely rattled and no doubt a little scared. Four-nil it finished at Lansdowne Road, Ireland’s heaviest home defeat for some 40 years. But if the result was worrying, the performance was petrifying.
By last weekend the excuses were rampant. Don Givens, the Irish
under-21 manager, said we had perhaps found our level. For a nation of just four million we couldn’t really be expected to compete consistently and perhaps we had overperformed in the not-too-distant past. John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI, looked to the injury list. Shay Given, Ian Harte, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie
Keane were all missing and no team could cope without such key names.
Staunton himself just seemed baffled. “We never got near them in the first half and they did to us what we were hoping to do to them. We made some unforced errors and the Dutch played very well and gave us
a lesson in finishing.”
The Dutch also gave Staunton a little taste of what lies ahead. In
just 10 days time he travels to Stuttgart to take on Germany in a European Championship qualifier. It’s the first of 12 games, and it looks set to be a very long and uncomfortable journey that will lead Ireland anywhere but the finals. And for that, Staunton must shoulder some of the blame. While he can’t be held responsible for a team that have had the spirit and the enthusiasm of a rotting corpse, the organization and tactics are all down to him. The goals against the Dutch were a perfect example of confusion and chaos. Twice Ireland’s offside trap – where Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Carr, Andy O’Brien and John O’Shea were the back four – was breached, not by inches but by yards, while from set pieces they looked childish.
Never has Germany away seemed so daunting. A country on a high after
the World Cup, their style and play was captivating earlier in the summer where they reached the last four and in Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose they have two strikers who are more than capable of handing out a similar lesson as that given by the Dutch.
Premature, maybe, but some sections of the Irish media are already calling for Staunton’s head, despite the fact he still hasn’t presided over a competitive fixture. When he finally does, the knives are already sharpened. Thin ice, and he’s barely started skating.
Dubs will be too
much for Mayomen
Would you believe it’s been 21 years? Honestly. Over two decades
since Dublin and Kerry last lined out together in an All Ireland final. Those holding their breath for a once-traditional September showpiece can exhale. Dublin haven’t qualified, but trust us, on Sunday they will. For once the hype around the capital is justified.
Ever-confident, to a painful degree, this year there’s a reason. They
are good and quite frankly few others are. Take Mayo and Laois in the
quarter-final last weekend. It was challenge match intensity and while Mayo qualified with a 0-14 to 0-11 victory, they can be thankful that of all teams it was Laois they were against.
Time and time again in recent seasons, Mick O’Dwyer’s sides have
hobbled from the championship in spineless and gutless fashion. This
time it was no different and Laois are left wondering how a team that was the best in Leinster between 2003 and 2005, walk away with just one provincial title. Mayo, meanwhile, are left wondering just how exactly they are going to beat Dublin. They have positives in the energy and commitment of Ciaran McDonald and Conor Mortimer, the midfield presence of Ronan McGarrity and the tireless efforts of Alan Dillon and Keith Higgins. But that isn’t enough.
The team that thrilled in the early league have slowed through championship intensity and the likes of Ger Brady and Billy Joe Padden have not been able to adapt their game to make a noticeable impact. The words of manager Mickey Moran didn’t inspire confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown either. “We’re proud and delighted to be in the semi-final,” he said after the disposal of Laois. “We said at half-time we’d stay ahead no matter what it took. We knew Laois would
come back at us and in fairness they did but we got through it.” And
of Dublin? “It’s going to be a tough task. As far as I know it’s already a Dublin-Kerry final. But we’ll show up next week and be glad to be there.
“Dublin have to be joint favorites to win this thing though, along
with Kerry. But we’ve got 30 lads who’ve trained hard all year. And
there’s a real honesty to them. I promised the people of Mayo at the
beginning of the year one thing: I didn’t promise an All Ireland, I
promised them a family of a team.”
Not words that will have Dublin quaking and they have no reason to
worry. The intensity they have generated this year has seen them
steamroll just about anyone who has stood in their way (albeit against limited opponents in the form of Longford, Laois, Offaly and Westmeath). The return of Jason Sherlock and Ray Cosgrove this season to the forward line has left the front six bordering on lethal but it’s been in the middle where the real drive has come from. Bryan Cullen at six has been immense and in front of him Shane Ryan has taken his game – as was needed – to another level while Ciaran Whelan is no longer the 10-minute man. Whether Pat Harte and McGarrity can cope is doubtful and it’s a similar story as to whether James Nallen can handle the pace of Dublin’s game.
Too many question marks. Twenty-one years of waiting is surely about to end.
Donaghy is Kerry’s answer
Kieran Donaghy. Strange how one man, however tall, can turn a championship season on its head. And there’s no doubting he’s done just that. After Jack O’Connor’s Kerry lost the Munster final replay to Cork, the county was in turmoil. It was destined to be the end of an era that saw the team struggle in the face of Ulster oppression.
One All Ireland made them a good team, but because this was Kerry
they were left to match up unfavorably against the past. O’Connor locked the gates to a Kerry training session – the first time ever the county hadn’t let the public enter in its history – and rumors were rampant about discontent within the panel. The end was surely in sight.
Last Sunday they squared up to Cork again, this time in the All Ireland semi-final, and left people wondering just how exactly they lost that Munster final. But there is a simple answer. The placing of 6’6″ Donaghy at full forward. Known as “Star,” the Tralee Tigers basketball player has already drawn comparisons with the Bomber Liston and it’s no wonder. In the three games since that Munster final replay, Donaghy has been the main reason behind the Kerry resurgence that has seen them dispose of Longford (where his hands of glue and superb vision were the catalyst for an early flurry of goals), Armagh (his first start in Croke Park saw him get the better of Francie Bellew, the last full back in the hard-man mould) and last Sunday it was Derek Kavanagh’s turn.
The first ball launched towards the pair saw Donaghy rise high and claim and he was only denied a goal after a fine stop by Alan Quirke. The trend continued and although Donaghy kicked just one point he was central to just about everything Kerry did as they ran out 0-16 to 0-10 winners.
An era isn’t quite over and it’s hard to see how Dublin or Mayo through Barry Cahill or David Heaney will stop him. This Kerry group look set to match up a little more favorably against history, while Donaghy at just 22 is set to cause consternation to full backs for a while yet.