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

Jeff Hendrick doesn't deserve the criticism he is getting, according to Gavin Cooney.

Irish journalist Gavin Cooney joined The Football Show on Tuesday to react to Ireland's loss in Armenia.

Stephen Kenny's recent contract extension was perfectly timed for the former League Of Ireland manager.

If Ireland were still mulling over the decision to retain Kenny or not, the loss in Armenia likely would have made the decision for the FAI. The loss is indefensible. Armenia are not a good team, they're ranked 92nd in the world and recently lost 9-0 to Norway.

While they've had some better performances and results in recent times, it's still inconceivable that Ireland would lose that game at this stage of Kenny's reign.

Whether it's a change in personnel or a change in system, something needs to be different on Wednesday night against Ukraine. Ukraine will play a weakened team after losing to Wales on Sunday. Ireland will expect to dominate possession and create chances to score goals. They dominated possession in Armenia, but failed to do the latter two tasks.

As he tends to be, Jeff Hendrick is at the center of all criticism.

Gavin Cooney explained that counter to wider commentary, Hendrick was actually Ireland's best player in Armenia.

"There was some decent Irish play," Cooney said.

"This is why I think Jeff Hendrick's performance has been so unfairly maligned. Hendrick was Ireland's best player in the first half in my opinion. By some distance. I think it's just the fact that he physically wilted in the second half, I think that's what happened. He's played 65 minutes of club action since Ireland's last game."

Hendrick barely plays club football now, so the heat in Armenia sapped his energy quicker than it should have. He is a technically gifted player but hasn't produced those performances for Ireland consistency in recent years. Although he has a good engine and presses well, he didn't offer enough with the ball against Armenia.

Cooney argues that while he didn't do enough, he did more than most of his teammates. But that is likely more an indictment of his teammates rather than a reason to prop him up.

"He played a few very, very good through passes initially for Ogbene who squared to Robinson, who had a shot cleared off the line. And then he played another great pass later in the half to Robinson, who took his time before cutting it back to Ogbene.

"They were a couple of moments that showed that Ireland could penetrate a bit. But they just didn't do it often enough. They were just too slow."

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Callum Robinson Chiedozie Ogbene Gavin Cooney Jeff Hendrick Stephen Kenny