The ever outspoken Roy Keane has been at it again. This time, claiming that both he and Martin O’Neill ‘Wanted to Kill’ some of the players that featured in the Republic of Ireland’s recent 2-1 defeat at home to Belarus. Some of the fringe players, who should have been looking to make an impression and pushing to claim a starting berth for when the UEFA European Championship tournament finals gets underway in France, displayed poor performances. Given that Belarus were soundly beaten previously by what many would consider to be an inferior Northern Ireland side to the Republic of Ireland, the premise of Keane’s anger can be understood. However, reports have been emanating in the press that there could be growing unrest in certain parts of the Irish camp due to this recent public outbursts.
Unrest is what the Irish do not need. They have been drawn into the toughest of groups. They will open their Euro 2016 adventure against Sweden, then the might of Belgium before facing Italy. It’s difficult to see where a draw may even come from let alone a win. The Republic of Ireland is also not blessed with any superstar players but Robbie Keane and John O’Shea, both 35, have been important to the team. O’Shea, though having struggled to get back into the starting lineup at Sunderland even after overcoming injury, and Keane, who is still regularly amongst the goals at club and international level, will both be required to bring all their years of experience and know-how to try and help secure the Irish an unlikely passage out of their tough group.
Any realistic hope will further depend heavily on the performances of James McCarthy in the heart of midfield. The Everton midfielder suffered a groin injury in the final English Premier League game of the season to Norwich City, but the good news is he has been training with the team. He is confident he will be ready to start the Sweden game. Ireland will need his battling qualities as they will expect to soak up pressure and grab goals on the counter. This is where Shane Long will look to provide goal threats with his pace and movement.
With the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Brady and Ciaran Clarke ending their seasons with relegation from the EPL and the Derby contingent nursing another agonising failure in the Championship playoffs, player spirits are unlikely to be high going into the tournament. Roy may have quite the task in uplifting the confidence within his dressing room. Despite that logic, history suggests he’ll do otherwise. In Euro 2012, when Ireland finished bottom of their group without gaining a single point, he took to the media with rash comments:
“I think the players and even the supporters, they all have to change their mentality. It’s just nonsense from players speaking after the games about how great the supporters are. Listen, the supporters want to see the team doing a lot better and not giving daft goals away like that. I’m not too happy with all that nonsense.”
“To praise the supporters for sake of it, let’s change that attitude towards Irish supporters. They want to see the team winning – let’s not kid ourselves, we are a small country, we are up against it, but let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again.”
Now whilst it is understandable the frustrations of Roy Keane, the consistent public lambasting of player and supporter alike should be seen as more harmful than good. The odds are firmly stacked against the Irish, but they are capable. During qualification, they went unbeaten against their group’s top team, Germany, and they generally have played well coming into the tournament. There are a few players struggling with match fitness due to injuries which makes it imperative that the fringe players are given the confidence to still go out and show their quality; even if they have one bad performance. Harmony in the squad has been key and that togetherness can harness the extra fight when needed. The Republic of Ireland will need every chance.