Thursday, May 25, 2006

TSA Report: Chile Con Carnage


So this is the craic. We finish our long club season, have a bit of a session, then we're heading off to the Algarve for a week with Ireland. Few rounds of golf, bit of a kickaround with Stan and the lads, then that's it. A nice six week break with the wives or girlfriends, or both if we can manage it; watch the World Cup, down to Dubai for some sun, visit the Mammy then back to the grindstone.

Oh yeah, we have to drop in to Lansdump and play Chile or somebody at some stage as well...
Apparently the honeymoon is over. Now, its nothing personal Stan, but as far as honeymoons go, I can think of better companions with whom to spend two weeks in a Seychelles paradise resort than a pasty, lanky Droghedonian with a doughy face and a voice like engine oil being poured down a sink. Gina Lollobrigida he ain't.

But surely lack of physical and sensual beauty is a shallow reason to end a delightful honeymoon, isn't it? I mean it was only a few days ago we were gazing dreamily into those puffy eyes at wonderment at how Stan, adept in the field of long-term weather forecasting as in all others, predicted several months ago when the activites of the last week were organised that Ireland would endure a week of monsoon rainfall in late May, therefore necessitating a training camp in sunny Portugal instead. "Isn't he wonderful?", we thought! How clever!

And oh, the early days of courtship - be still my fluttering heart - and the hammering of Sweden, the masterstroke of making Robbie captain, attentively going around the Eircom league grounds, the coquettish press conferences - "what formation is it Stan?"; "11 v 11"; "Oh Stan! You do amuse!" - boy did he press all our buttons!

So no, I'm not going to throw away all those good times, that gay springtime whirl, over one disappointing friendly! To HELL with you; me and Stan are still on honeymoon!

Look at it like this. It was a friendly. It took place on 23rd May, two and a half weeks after most players' club seasons finished. It was an experimental line-up, trying a few different formations, giving a few new boys a run-out. And as the reactor core of Irish football is the whole in-your-face-get-amongst-them attitude thing, and as this match took place when the only thing players would wish to get amongst is the doubles bar in their Ayia Napa resort, isn't it forgiveable that they were a little laissez faire last night? And don't we learn much more about what we have from a defeat than a facile victory against disinterested tourists?

Don't we now know that using Irish footballers to try out unconventional formations like the 3-4-3 of the opening quarter of last night's match is like playing Mozart on the spoons? Don't we now know that if ever again we see an Irish central midfield containing Liam Miller and John O'Shea lined up to face the cream of our planet's international opposition, verily we can flagellate our wretched souls while croaking "the horror, the horror"?

Don't we now know that, when we are regarding Kevin Kilbane as a more fit and proper centre-half option than Gary Breen, then it is surely time that the the former Sunderland man's international submarine has sailed? And that Stephen Reid, after driving Blackburn impressively through the centre of midfield to an unexpected UEFA Cup spot, is not, nor ever will be, a right sided midfielder and should not be asked to play as such.

And don't we know that until Irish footballers learn to hold on to possession with the ease with which their humble (by the measure of the FIFA rankings that is) Chilean counterparts did last night that our international also-ran status will remain? And that, as impressively as Kevin Doyle contributed in winning numerous headers, the notion of Ireland as a team that can dominate aerially in the opposition's penalty box is outdated? And that we need therefore to either exponentially improve the quality of deliveries into the box or devise subtler methods to break open sides than merely tossing in crosses which carry all the penetrative threat of a lace doily?

See, we know all this now. So go easy on the big dolt, a bit of loyalty called for here.

Stan, c'm'ere. I can't stay mad at you for long......

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