It’s Thursday of last week, and the world of Irish soccer seems to me to be more than delighted at the departure of the dream management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, while the clamour to replace them with Mick McCarthy is deafening.
I, for one, cannot understand what he has done to make him such a wanted man. We are told of his great record with Ireland in the past, and of his subsequent wonderful achievement in winning nothing – but keeping Ipswich in the Championship –and so I decided to have a look at the panel of players McCarthy had to work with when he took Ireland to the World Cup finals in 2002.
Mick had a squad full of top Premiership players such as Shay Given, Steve Finnan, Roy and Robbie Keane, Jason McAteer, Richard Dunne, Steve Staunton, Niall Quinn, Damien Duff, Ian Harte, and many more instantly recognisable names from England’s top clubs. Compare that with the players that O’Neill worked with, none of whom were with any of the top Premiership clubs, and only a handful of whom were in the Premiership at all. The few that were attached to Premiership clubs hardly ever made their first team. In truth I had never heard of most of O’Neill’s panel (well, only in an Irish context).
In my opinion, O’Neill’s achievement in getting us to France for the Euros in 2016 was remarkable. He did this with a team of journeymen, with a very odd bit of genuine talent thrown in. Cyrus Christie, Ciaran Clarke, Stephen Ward, Richard Keogh, David Meyler, Stephen Quinn, Aiden McGeady, along with a couple of half-decent players like Shane Long, Robbie Brady and James McClean, brought us on a memorable trip to France, and we were only beaten 2-1 in the last 16 by the hosts and present World Cup champions.
I am no lover (any more) of soccer, but while the last year has been abysmal on the international front for our national side, it is my opinion that we don’t have the talent to compete with the better teams any more, and that our expectations are totally unrealistic. Maybe, rather than blaming the management, it’s time to look at the FAI as a whole, and figure out why John Delaney is still in his highly-paid job – and time also to question how our rugby team, with a much smaller playing base, can be in such a strong place, while the soccer team gets worse and worse! Maybe Captain Fantastic can work miracles, but I have my doubts.
Almost a week has passed since I wrote the first bit about the Irish soccer manager saga, and in the meantime, the appointment of Mick McCarthy has been rushed through. He must be laughing all the way to whatever bank he keeps his few bob in. According to the national papers, he could – if everything goes perfectly well for him and Ireland – be in line for more than four million pounds sterling for two years’ work. For a recently unemployed football manager, not a bad arrangement! In truth, I wish him well. It would be nice to see the Republic of Ireland soccer team back in the final stages of European and World Cup tournaments, although I am not convinced we have the necessary talent to get there.
It was also a week where Irish rugby got the news that was no surprise to anyone, that is of the pending departure of Joe Schmidt. While we have another eleven months left under his leadership, there is no doubt that when he goes he will be a huge loss.
We have a Six Nations Championship and a World Cup to negotiate before Joe rides into the sunset, and there is no doubt that he will have this Irish team focused to the very end.
Westport is next stop after a rugby classic
Sticking with rugby, but much closer to home, in Creggs last Saturday night I witnessed as good a game of rugby as I have seen in many a long year, when our home team played host to a hugely-motivated Monivea side.
At the end of what I can only describe as a war of attrition, we came out on top on an 18-8 scoreline. If any of the players were able to walk on Sunday, I would be surprised. The belts that were given – and taken – were just amazing, and I thanked my lucky stars that my rugby playing days were long over.
As I downed a few celebratory pints in Mikeen’s later that night, it was great to realise that the future of our little rugby club is in such good hands.
It’s all off to Westport this Saturday evening for what will surely be another battle, and I just can’t wait. I hope the trusty (?) old Volvo is up to such a major run. However, just in case, if you see a 06 grey Volvo broken down anywhere, make sure you stop and see if there’s anyone in it.
Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are coming to terms with the news that, after 23 years, the annual St. Stephen’s Day Barrie Harris Walk has come to an end.
Bina and her family have asked me to convey their thanks to everybody who participated in any way over those 23 years. They want to thank all those who took part in the walk itself, the committee members who oversaw the organisation of the event year in year out, the people who collected money for so many charities, and all those who made the walk the biggest annual event in our parish calendar.
Over the 23-year term, many charities have benefitted greatly from the huge amount of money that was raised, and, as Bina and her family bow out, it is only right to acknowledge the incredible contribution they made, in so many ways, to the success of the Barrie Harris Walk.
The good news is that there is a new walk starting on this St. Stephen’s Day, and on this Thursday night there will be a meeting in Mikeen’s (at 9.30 pm) with the purpose being to make plans for this new event.
Everyone is welcome to come along and volunteer their services in helping with the organisation of the new walk. You can take it that a walk will go ahead on St. Stephen’s Day – under a new guise – but that, after 23 years, the Barrie Harris Walk is officially at an end.
Till next week, Bye for now!