Not every day easy, not every day nice
Enjoy the trip lads, here’s looking forward to seeing you guide us on an epic journey
It makes me smile when you think how irrelevant both have seen friendly games in the past.
O’Neill even remarked this week that he would prefer to start with a competitive challenge.
But their roles have changed now. They seem well suited to them too. Dealing with clubs, sifting through the UK leagues for form and talent.
Both were capable of dominating games at the highest level, grabbing nights by the scruff of the neck in their prime.
Midfielders dictate football matches. On recent evidence there is a lack of true quality in Ireland’s central cog.
Although there is potential in the James McCarthy-Darron Gibson axis – more the shame the latter got seriously injured – that can be built upon as opposed to the Keith Andrews-Glenn Whelan combination that Trapattoni was so fond of.
O’Neill cleverly left himself open to the use of different systems, like a third midfielder against better opposition.
He mentioned the pragmatism of Brian Clough playing one striker and five midfielders for the successful European Cup campaign of 1979.
That augurs well for what is coming down the tracks.
Much change in personnel is still coming. The manager inherits a situation where only David Forde, McCarthy, Séamus Coleman and John O’Shea can consider themselves regulars for the future.
Added to list
Also, Robert Brady and Ciarán Clark can eventually be added to that list.
The practical challenges tonight and Tuesday are to sort out the left-back position, a cohesive centre-half pairing and a system that creates more chances.
Will there be room for a play-maker like Reid or Wes Hoolahan?
With so many of the current squad in and out of their current club sides, chasing the right club game at the weekend will be tricky for Roy and Martin.
Not every day easy, not every day nice. I’ve often thought this a great description for life in general. It also fits nicely with the job of managing the Republic of Ireland.
Martin and Roy won’t be long finding that out. These are the good days and we hope for many more.
I loved my time with the national team. Thankfully most of them were nice, not always easy, but nice all the same.
Enjoy the trip lads, we are all looking forward to seeing the finest sporting products of Derry and Cork brings us on what could well be an epic journey.