Unless Scotland capitulate to Poland and Germany (both at home) and Ireland come up with, let’s face it, unlikely wins against the same opponents, there’s little chance of Martin O’Neill’s side reaching Euro 2016.
Despite the undoubted fact that we were drawn in the toughest European Championship qualifying group, Ireland’s lack of an offensive edge came home to roost again at Lansdowne Road last Saturday.
Let’s face it: Ireland, at best, against a team of a similar or superior ranking, can only ever hope to win 1-0. We rarely look capable of scoring more than once against a fellow average international side, and, again, let’s face it, that’s all we are at present. And we needed a second goal against Scotland to seal the deal and remain firmly in contention for France.
It may feel hackneyed and clichéd to state this, but one would never fault this or most previous Irish teams when it comes to effort. Robbie Brady was outstanding on Saturday; Wes Hoolahan produced an excellent first half in particular and I for one still can’t understand why our sole creative midfielder was substituted by O’Neill.
Our own Daryl Murphy shed buckets for the cause against the Scots and John O’Shea, once more, ably captained the team and was very unfortunate to see Shaun Maloney’s shot divert into the net off his back.
Ireland certainly won’t throw in the towel, but our inadequacies against the men from Gary Mackay’s homeland, a team scarcely much better than ours, look set to leave our players on the loungers next summer. And O’Neill, with his contract expiring at the end of this campaign, may well move on.