Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


'The players are failing Stephen Kenny' - Stuey Byrne

Ireland's players can't hide behind Stephen Kenny after their most recent performances. They must improve.

Former professional footballer Stuey Byrne joined Joe Molloy after Ireland lost to Ukraine.

The optimism surrounding Stephen Kenny is gone.

Ireland followed up an awful performance in Armenia with an awful performance in Dublin. This time against Ukraine's second-string side. Ireland started well and Jason Knight was particularly impressive. Knight turned defender, skipped past defenders, found space and linked up play. He also got shots on goal.

It looked like Ireland were giving a response to their bad showing in Armenia. But that was about all they did.

After the first 15 minutes, Ukraine gradually got better, took a stranglehold on the game and easily closed the game out for a 1-0 win. Nathan Collins excelled, Knight was consistently good and Josh Cullen improved on his previous outing. But the established players really let Ireland down once again.

Shane Duffy and Jeff Hendrick struggled significantly. Callum Robinson offered nothing and neither wing back had any impact on the game.

Stuey Byrne explained that the players are letting Stephen Kenny down now.

"This whole philosophy of trying to be a footballing team has hit a little bit of a brick wall," Byrne said.

"And it's now at a stage where it needs to be taken on by the players. When you look at the Ukrainians, have a look at them individually. So comfortable on the ball, so comfortable turning, so aware of the space that's around them. Two yards, three yards it's not a problem to them. They know how to get themselves out of trouble."

Ukraine are not one of the best teams in the world. They are a technically impressive outfit but even with their first-line starters they are not an intimidating opponent. Or at least they shouldn't be. But they were able to move the ball and reclaim the ball consistently throughout the game.

Ireland have too many players who are still uncomfortable on the ball and uncomfortable understanding how to find space or function in space.

That must change or Ireland will return to the days of playing long balls for 90 minutes.

"If there's 10 yards in front of them, they're stepping into that 10 yards. That's the difference now. We're at a stage now where in order for Stephen Kenny's era as manager to progress forward, the players, the coaching staff, they're going to need to get it into the heads of these players that they're going to have to be quicker with their passing.

"Better with their passing. Better with their decision's football intelligence. [Ukraine] are at a level we need to get to."

Jeff Hendrick was one of Ireland's best players in Armenia - The Football Show


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Callum Robinson Ireland James Mcclean Jeff Hendrick Shane Duffy Stephen Kenny