Much more on Robbie Brady’s agenda than taking in sights

Dubliner making most of underdog role as Ireland reach for stars against Belgium

GROUP E: Republic of Ireland v Belgium, Stade de Bordeaux, Saturday, 2pm (RTÉ 2, UTV)

Between all the strikes and the security, his sightseeing isn't going quite to plan but Robbie Brady still insists that Ireland can emerge from a European Championship group in which Italy, rather than Belgium, now look like the t1op dogs.

To judge by their officials, the rather star-studded Belgians are unfazed by their early setback against Italy with the association's vice-president, Philippe Collin, observing in the wake of Monday's games that Marc Wilmots' team is "two or three levels" above Martin O'Neill's.

Collin has form when it comes to these sorts of pronouncements and has previously suggested that Eden Hazard needed "a kick up the arse".


He may not be wrong with regard to the Chelsea playmaker – or even Ireland, for that matter, we shall see – but his nation’s coach might probably prefer if he kept his insights to himself.

Promising start

Brady, of course, seems quite happy to hear it. If it really is true that Ireland are at their best when underdogs then they should be about to come right into their own and condescension from the other camp will only add to the Irish group’s collective motivation.

The Dubliner, in any case, is quite sure that they can build in Bordeaux on the promising start made against Sweden.

“It always helps when people are talking like that because it just gives us that extra urge,” says the 24 -year-old, whose status within the Ireland set up has grown dramatically over the course of this campaign.

“Hopefully we’ll only be two levels behind them come tomorrow,” he says sarcastically. “Ah no, it doesn’t bother me. We know what we are capable of and we know we are capable of hurting teams. Hopefully we can do that.

“They have,” he says, “got some fantastic players but there’s nothing to fear. We’ve got players that can hurt teams, like we showed the other night.

“Hopefully we can show what we’re about as well and try and shut out what they’ve got.”

The key thing, he suggests, is to keep posing a clear danger to the opposition as Ireland consistently did until they scored at the Stade de France and that may yet involve a switch for him to midfield.

Defensive weaknesses

Brady has plenty of football under his belt at left back at this stage but his need to contain players like Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne may prompt a change of formation and the Irish man's stats suggest that while he has at least a hand in a third of Irish goals, his defensive weaknesses contribute to a fifth or so of the ones Ireland concede.

Regardless of his own role on Saturday, Brady acknowledges that he and his team mates could probably learn a little from the way Italy pushed on the other night to win after taking their lead in the first half.

“You can pick up little pointers off different things you watch,” he says. “The Italians are known for being relentless. When they went a goal up they looked good, they looked comfortable and they saw it out well. They got the second goal. Hopefully we can take a leaf out of their book and go and do the same.

“We can’t just set out to stop them, although we’ll be well drilled in trying to do that. They have some dangerous players and people who can hurt us. But hopefully we’ll keep them quiet and show them what we’re about.

“We have to think like that if we want to have any ambitions of getting out of this group,” he says. “The lads are buzzing already. We are ready for Belgium.”

As for the tourism, it may have to be abandoned. The players routinely have to be accompanied if they want to get out and see the sights but when he went to have a wander around the Palace in Versailles it was closed for the most un-royal of reasons, industrial action.

He seems unperturbed. “It’s not what you’re here for,” he says. “It won’t be the end of the world if I do miss out on seeing it. We’re here to win games. We’re here to make history. Hopefully we can do that.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times