The Republic of Ireland’s World Cup dreams went up in smoke as Denmark turned on the style in Dublin to book their ticket to Russia on Tuesday evening.
Here, Football Paradise takes a look at some of the talking points in the aftermath of a heartbreaking evening for Ireland.
Stick or twist?
As far as Martin O’Neill is concerned, he, Roy Keane and the rest of the coaching staff have a verbal agreement to continue for the Euro 2020 qualification campaign. Pressed as to whether he may reconsider as a result of the 5-1 drubbing by the Danes, O’Neill said he would “have a real think about it”, but instantly defended his record as manager to suggest he does not intend to go anywhere.
Full-back Cyrus Christie has performed admirably since being asked to step into the sizeable boots of Seamus Coleman following his double leg fracture in March. However, Coleman is one of O’Neill’s class acts and his understated, yet inspirational, brand of captaincy will hand the squad a major boost for the next campaign.
The summer of 2016 saw Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick emerge as senior international players in front of a continental audience as they lit up Ireland’s Euros adventure in France. Both struggled to hit those heights consistently during World Cup qualification and a return to that kind of form would represent a significant boost.
O’Neill has repeatedly bemoaned the fact that he inherited now-retired record goalscorer Robbie Keane at 33 and not as a 26 or 27-year-old. Jonathan Walters, whose goals helped to take the Republic to France, was injured for the conclusion of the campaign, while Daryl Murphy scored three goals, but with Shane Long having not found the back of the net for club or country since February, winger James McClean was top-scorer on four, and that is an area which requires significant improvement.
End of an era?
John O’Shea won his 117th senior cap for Ireland in the 0-0 home draw with Wales in March and was an unused substitute for the final seven games of the campaign. The Sunderland defender, a Champions League and serial Premier League winner with Manchester United, was persuaded to delay his retirement from international football by O’Neill before the start of the campaign, but at 36, his time has almost certainly come.
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