by Leighton Cullen

Last night in Gdansk Ireland endured their worst defeat in well over 30 years in a competitive match and it’s extremely hard to take anything positive from what was quite bluntly a comprehensive drubbing from an Irish perspective.

Trap was once again baffling in his selection and tactics. Yes we needed an extra man in midfield but Simon Cox – a bit-part player for WBA – was not the answer.
Also when you play a 4-5-1 up front you need a willing runner and those days are long gone for a certain Robbie lazy Keane. Keane is lucky to even be considered a starter in these championships because since his move to the MLS his standards have dropped significantly.

He is now resembling a mere shadow of what he once was and perhaps I’m being a little hard here but the greed he displayed to head to the US instead of continuing playing in England was unedifying and has consequently had a serious impact on his fitness levels. He simply hasn’t got the marauding stamina anymore that’s required to plough a lone furrow up front. Last night Ireland were crying out for a wiling runner in Long or Doyle to offer better movement, put some degree of pressure on the Spanish back line, but most importantly of all take some pressure off the lads toiling against a constant stream of tika-taka.

Elsewhere things were hardly any more encouraging. Ireland looked lacklustre and defeated from the off with an aging spine that desperately needs surgery. It is hoped that Given puts off thoughts of international retirement until after the next World Cup because his quality and experience are invaluable but it has to be said that he’s hardly Super Shay at present and undergoing a poor time of it.

The defence of O’Shea and Dunne meanwhile need overhauling sooner rather than later whilst the midfield of Whelan and Andrews were always going to be out-thought, if not out-fought, at this level and have been thoroughly beyond their depth. Sadly Damien Duff may now possibly retire after the Italy farewell on Monday and will be sorely missed. Duffer has been a brilliant servant to Ireland and has placed a nation on the edge of its seat on so many occasions it would be hard to begrudge him a dignified exit on his own terms.

As for Captain Keane he will unfortunately stick around and in doing so hamper any progress Walters and Doyle could conceivably forge as a potential pairing while, in an ideal world, Trap would walk away at the end of the Euros and allow a fresh face with fresh ideas to come in but that too is doubtful.

Despite my misgivings, and through the depression, it was impossible however not to be blown away by the Spanish brilliance. When they’re in this form they are capable of obliterating any opposition put before them and it was a joy to watch their collective intelligence in full effect. Torres seems to be firing again which will place fear in any side facing them in the knock-out stages while Silva’s passing wearied Irish legs.

Fatigue though cannot be blamed for once again conceding within the opening minutes and twice in consecutive games does point at a failure in mentality and preparation. If we are to employ a veteran Italian to boss our national side the least we can expect is for those traits to be drummed into the lads in addition to well-drilled organisation. The finger must also be pointed at Trap for a very un-Italian opening of the floodgates to let in four.

There is no question that a complete re-evaluation is needed, both at national and grass-roots, level and it’s hoped that the dismal disappointment of Euro 2012 may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise. Ireland’s high-tempo game, that once rattled and unsettled superior sides, is now being ruthlessly found out and its limitations exposed.

It’s time for a rethink and though we will never have the pool of extraordinary talent that blesses larger countries we should endeavour to learn from the harsh lessons being dished out in Poland.