Give youth a chance

Rep. Of Ireland…3

Azerbaijan…0

Saturday would have been John Lennon’s birthday. No, I wouldn’t have known either only it was spotted trending on Twitter. In the days leading up to it, his great festive anthem Happy Christmas/War Is Over on a television commercial. Yes, in the first week of October. Nauseating. Having watched Ireland’s victory in Baku, one was tempted to paraphrase another Lennon classic and suggest that the Irish football fraternity need to be patient and give youth a chance.

Lord knows there’s no particular rush. We’re not exactly renowned for pulling up trees at that level. Boxing above our weight was once a different story. At the outset here, let it be admitted that this corner wouldn’t have been in favour of Stephen Kenny’s appointment. Or the farce involving Mick McCarthy for that matter. Though it does appear to follow the Barnsley bogtoe around.

However, one is not above ingesting a dollop of humble pie is such is the prescribed medicine. In this case, it assuredly is. Kenny is, to my mind at least, steering things in a desirable direction. Now, no fair minded person – Eamon Dunphy look away now – could have anything negative to say about the Jack Charlton era. But if there was a hangover from those glory days (relatively speaking) it manifests in that those who came in the great man’s wake tried to replicate his teachings.

Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery but it doesn’t allow for evolution. Put a different way, what worked then won’t necessarily suffice now. Not for a moment is the suggestion that we need a fleet of Roy Keanes but lumping long balls forward to whoever happens to be up top is too easy to defend against. Not that intricate, slick passing football would transform us into world beaters overnight either.

What is clear, though, is that Kenny is quite obviously trying to inculcate a more expansive style of football with the players. Mindsets can’t be deconstructed that quickly but even last night there was ample evidence things are moving in the right direction.

Callum Robinson let the ball do the work and his boots do the talking

Yes, the paucity of the opposition must be taken into account. But even allowing for the old maxim about only being able to beat the opponent in front of you, there was definitely something positively different about the way Kenny’s crew conducted their business.

Obviously and deservedly, Callum Robinson garnared most of the plaudits. Not only because of his excellent display between the white lines but also, nay, more so, after the torrent of bovine dung jet propelled in his direction by that insufferable bluffing bowsy Joe Duffy.

Look, you may not agree with the Newcastle forward’s stance regarding the Covid-19 jab, I for one absolutely do not, but the lad’s right to make his own decision cannot be questioned. Which is what made his ridiculing, villifcation and humiliation by journalistic dross a particularly stomach curdling episode.

It certainly didn’t impinge on his ability to do the needful on the pitch. His first goal resembling the unforgettable strike essayed homeward by Alan McLoughlin in Windsor Park Belfast in November 1993. From a personal perspective naturally the lad was probably disappointed not to have completed his hat-track.

Looking through a different lens, though, the number of chances they created serves as a vindication of what the manager is trying to instill in the players.

Dietmar Hamann’s typically cold German analytical observation of the situation may have been factually correct but sometimes a different perspective is needed. I would not consider the remaining games perfunctory. In their own way they can continue propulsion of the work which has already begun. A bit done, a lot more to do.

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