Eamon Dunphy has labelled the Ireland soccer team as boring ahead of their crucial Euro 2016 clash with Scotland at Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Martin O’Neill’s Ireland played out a dour 0-0 friendly draw against England last Sunday, and while Dunphy praised their organisation and solidity in that performance, he criticised what he perceives to have been a conservative approach by O'Neill's men in the Euro 2016 campaign thus far.
“Boring but yesterday against a team that has much better players like Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling and people like that I thought Ireland were outstanding. They worked hard, they defended well at set-pieces, defensively I thought we did really well," said Dunphy speaking to RTÉ Sport.
“[But] against Scotland we were terrible and against Germany for 70 minutes we were terrible. And we weren’t really that good in our first match where Aiden McGeady got us out of jail against Georgia."
Dunphy also criticised O'Neill's failure to back Norwich's Wes Hoolahan as a player that could thrive both home and away in international soccer.
“He’s talked stupidly about Wes Hoolahan being able to play at the Aviva but not being able to play away from home,” said Dunphy.
“What pressure that puts on Wes when he goes on the pitch, ‘the manager doesn’t really believe in me.’"
“Irish fans have had almost seven years of coaches that don’t believe in their players, who are getting paid the biggest sums of money in Europe, Trapattoni was the highest-paid manager in Europe and O’Neill is not far off it now" - Eamon Dunphy
The RTÉ analyst also hinted that he was losing his players backing by failing to instil both a positive playing style in the side and a positive culture within the squad, unlike his opposite number at Scotland Gordon Strachan, who Dunphy feels has put a swagger back in the Scottish squad and set-up.
“McGeady said last week that 'we had better players than Scotland.' He said that 'when we play we don’t play,'" said Dunphy. “He said that 'we play great football in training but when we get on the pitch for serious matches we don’t play.'
“That’s like a knife in the manager’s back. That’s his job to get the football out of the players. To encourage them to play.
“On that score O’Neill has not had a very distinguished score so far. And for that reason we are backs to the wall, we have to win this game [against Scotland]. A draw is no good.
"But what Gordon Strachan brings to the Scottish team is obvious: optimism, belief, organisation, encouragement for players that they’re capable of winning matches.
“Everybody knows that you need a coach who’s full of belief. Who instils belief in his players individually and collectively, and who isn’t always going around with a long face."
O'Neill's predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni was also singled our for criticism as Dunphy labelled both managers as men who have dragged the national side through a period of mediocrity and lack of self-confidence.
“Irish fans have had almost seven years of coaches that don’t believe in their players, who are getting paid the biggest sums of money in Europe, Trapattoni was the highest-paid manager in Europe and O’Neill is not far off it now," said Dunphy.
“And O’Neill is musing in public about whether to play Wes Hoolahan in away games. I mean that’s a sacking offence.
“The Martin O’Neill who achieved great things with Celtic, Leicester and even Wycombe was optimistic. He did instil belief in his players.
“The players he had at Celtic got to the UEFA Cup final and went to extra-time against Jose Mourinho’s Porto, who went on the next year to win the Champions League. If he went around Celtic Park the way he’s going around at the moment he’d be out of a job.
“His team would never have achieved. I mean he got to a UEFA Cup final with a team that overachieved but if you’re humming and hawing in public about Wes Hoolahan that’s outrageous. I’d sack him for that."
O'Neill's Ireland have the chance to make Dunphy eat his words next Saturday at the Aviva. A win would put Ireland above their Scottish rivals and right back in contention for a spot at France 2016.
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