Republic of Ireland midfielder Wes Hoolahan in action against Slovakia’s Miroslav Stoch. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Midfielder has the rare gift of making those around him look better than they are

In last  Friday night’s friendly international against Switzerland, Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph’s brief was clear: pump the ball up to Kevin Doyle, then Daryl Murphy. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Our long-ball game was enough to make it to Euros, but won’t be enough to survive there

Over the years I’d pluck a name from the mind’s eye to describe a young player. We all do. Once in a blue moon I’d nudge Noel O’Reilly, my late partner in crime, and nod towards a tall, languid boy with every skill under the sun, “bit of Cruyff about him .  . .”

If the Dutch projected this iconic image, Johan Cruyff embodied their style in his very being

 Bosnia’s Asmir Begovic is unable to prevent Jonathan Walters scoring Ireland’s second goal. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

This team has grown and an appearance at the finals is richly deserved

John O’Shea is available for selection after suspension. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s side cannot afford to sit on delicate advantage earned in Bosnia

Robbie Brady celebrates after scoring for the Republic of Ireland in Zenica. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

But some changes will certainly be needed for the second leg in Dublin on Monday

Wes Hoolahan has only started an away game but in Gibraltar could prove vital for Ireland in Zenica. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Ireland can get good result in Bosnia but only if they cut out basic errors

Robbie Brady could be used at left back against Poland. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland work rate against Germany was remarkable – task is to repeat that in Poland

Referee Istvan Vad issues a yellow card to Republic of Ireland’s James McClean for a challenge on Georgia’s Giorgi Papunashvili  at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s joy in victory will be tempered by suspensions for Whelan and McClean

One of the positives of the Martin O’Neill era has been his willingness to move with the times and use different tactical and organisational shapes for our team

I feel we need at least one winger in the team to stretch Georgia’s defence

Martin O’Neill at Ireland’s training ground in the Algarve, Faro, on Thursday. The last time Ireland played  Gibraltar, Robbie Keane scored a hat-trick, which escalated into a 7-0 victory. Photograph:  Donall Farmer/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s squad can still secure a play-off place if they beat Gibraltar and Georgia

Wes Hoolahan and Scotand’s Scott Brown battle for possession at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Ireland’s quality and clarity of purpose swallowed by intensity of second half

Unfortunately for Martin O’Neill his selections and plans have scarcely worked apart from periods against weak Georgia and awful Gibraltar.

Pace and tempo will be the factors that decide crunch tie, much like in Glasgow

England’s Jordan Henderson battles for the ball with the Republic of Ireland’s Aiden McGeady during the international friendly at The Aviva Stadium. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Draw with England proves the overall plan and shape of team should be up to the test

Managers always find it frustrating trying to get players enthusiastic for summer games and I remember Roy Keane missing some games for me in 2004 when he had booked holidays. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

As a tune-up for Scotland match, clash with the old enemy comes at perfect moment

Martin O’Neill had a feel for the occasion by fielding an attacking line-up, just like Ireland always should do at home. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Victory against Scotland in June is now essential for Euro 2016 qualification hopes

James McCarthy: his return after three matches is vital to the Republic of Ireland’s cause. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

We are a sum of the parts team and need all of those parts working to qualify

The  Republic of Ireland’s James McClean scores  his side’s third goal against the USA at the  Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo:   Brian Lawless/PA

Brady’s stock has soared again and in McGoldrick and Christie we have found two prospects

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill: still looking to impose a discernible  system on the side. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Doubts about the vital James McCarthy’s commitment to the cause are unwarranted

Shane Long reacts to a missed chance at Celtic Park last night. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

In every facet of play Scotland earned this victory – but it’s not the end of the world

In Brian Kerr’s midfield: Darron Gibson. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Two teams with many similarities, it’s difficult to pick a winner, so maybe a draw is the best bet

The Republic of Ireland’s John O’Shea celebrates scoring the dramatic equaliser against Germany  in injury time. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Last-gasp equaliser a fitting reward for a determined display from O’Neill’s men

Bastian Schweinsteiger is sorely missed from the German engine room while Jonathan Walters could have a key role to play for Ireland tonight. Photograph:  Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images.

‘Forget about nil-all. We must score to get a result in Gelsenkirchen’

Robbie Keane  congratulates Wes Hoolahan  on scoring the Republic of Ireland’s   seventh goal against Gibraltar. Hoolahan pressed his claims for a starting place with an eye-catching display. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty

Ireland were professional and efficient against the minnows and Wes Hoolahan took the opportunity to press his claims for a starti(...)

Gibraltar manager Allen Bula on his way to training at the Aviva Stadium yesterday afternoon. Photograph: Ryan Byrne

Dublin launch inappropriate and unfair on O’Neill and his team ahead of Gibraltar game

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill knows how to bring the best out of John O’Shea. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

This looked like a proper Republic of Ireland side sent out by people who know what Irish football is about

Ireland’s Shane Long  celebrates his late strike against Latvia.

Playing Robbie Keane as the lone striker has rarely worked

 John O’Shea, James McClean, Séamus Coleman  and Robbie Keane celebrate after Keane’s goal for the Republic of Ireland in last night’s friendly international against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Alan Betson/The Irish Times

But O’Neill and Keane would have taken satisfaction from all the little things done right

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill with assistant Roy Keane during last night’s training session at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Enjoy the trip lads, here’s looking forward to seeing you guide us on an epic journey

The Dream Team: Martin O’Neill greets Roy Keane during their Premier League days in 2008.

You have to bite your lip at times, something Martin O’Neill’s assistant may find difficult

Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King: in just two games,  King tried to address the serious issue of been outnumbered in midfield.

Noel King’s brief tenure has shown that viable tactical alternatives are available to us

Noel King: criticism of his tactics and team selection against Germany were ‘ludicrous’.

Noel King can concentrate on an attacking approach in a game where Ireland should have significant possession

 The Republic of Ireland’s Anthony Stokes and Jerome Boateng of Germany contest an aerial ball during the World Cup qualifier in Cologne. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Noel King’s line-up battled valliantly but gulf in class was always likely to tell

The consensus towards Martin O’Neill’s appointment as the next manager of the Republic of Ireland team might allow it to turn into a painless exercise. Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Reuters

Roy Keane is an intriguing option but shadow of Saipan might loom still too large for some

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni in Vienna last night. “We can’t call ourselves unlucky against Austria at home. They deserved that draw. And still we heard excuses about injury time and bad luck. Austria also deserved to win last night.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

We haven’t got a man that can drag us kicking and screaming to the World Cup finals as Roy Keane once did

James McCarthy will be vital for the Republic of Ireland against Austria; pictureed also is Marc Wilson, who voiced his frustration with the Irish set-up recently. Photograph: Inpho

It was shameful Ireland were directed to play the way they did against Sweden

Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane and Jon Walters with Per Nilsson of Sweden. Photograph: Inpho

Inability to change when needed has severely damaged World Cup hopes

Giovanni Trapattoni went to see Richard Dunne play for QPR last week and clearly saw enough to bring back his most important player of these past five years. Photograph: Inpho

Most important is the cover in front of our centre backs, where visitors can cause most damage

Robbie Keane of the Republic of Ireland turns to celebrate after scoring his hat-trick against  the Faroe Islands. Photograph:  Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Another special night for Ireland’s captain, in a very special international career

Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the game against the Faroe Islands. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Ireland should register a comfortable win over the Faroe Islands a proud and lovely nation

Wes Hoolahan:  could be the ideal link man in the modern number 10 role, between the midfield four and lone striker, for the really competitive internationals. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

The Norwich man could be key for this team, if given a chance by the manager

Republic of Ireland’s James McCarthy  and England’s Jermain Defoe  battle for the ball during the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

It was well worth everyone travelling all the way to Wembley

 Robbie Keane (right) and John O’Shea talk during a training session at Wembley Stadium

Trapattoni fails to take another opportunity to experiment before some vital World Cup qualifiers

Ireland's fans feel the chill at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho

I wanted to see the excellent McCarthy, Green and Whelan in front of the back four with one striker working alone

Team Ireland: can beat Austria at the Aviva

Encouraging performance against Sweden shows what Trapattoni’s Ireland are capable of

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hard to contain at the Friends Arena tonight.

How Wigan’s James McCarthy can’t get a game in midfield is a mystery

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