Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Should Ireland use Jeff Hendrick more?

Jeff Hendrick still has value for Ireland when they need a calming presence in midfield, like they did on Saturday against Scotland.

Irish Journalist Dan McDonnell joined Joe Molloy on The Football Show to discuss Ireland's midfield.

Ireland suffered a disappointing loss to Scotland in Hampden Park.

It was disappointing because they played well and still lost. Alan Browne's handball was silly. It gave Scotland the game-winning penalty, and there were plenty of other missed opportunities too.

Still, Ireland played well for the most part. The back three of John Egan, Nathan Collins and Dara O'Shea excelled together. Michael Obafemi and Troy Parrott continue to develop their relationship. Matt Doherty returned in a decent display and the midfield trio battled hard for 90 minutes.

But there was a lack of control in Ireland's performance. Scotland showed their experience during the second half and Joe Molloy couldn't help but notice Ireland lacked that same quality.

"There were definitely periods in the second half when Scotland had control of the game," Molloy said.

"We almost did that too readily and you would love if that midfield three had almost said...'We might just try to take the sting out of this game a touch.' Now I don't know if that's experience or nous or maybe they were under strict instructions to get it forward, that's the way we hurt them.

"But that was definitely a feeling watching the game."

Dan McDonnell agreed with Molloy.

None of Cullen, Knight nor Molumby controlled possession or dictated the play. They weren't bad on the ball, but they didn't understand how or have the ability to slow the game down when Ireland needed them to.

McDonnell explains it's an area that Ireland are concerned about.

"To a degree this comes back to quality of player in this department," McDonnell said.

"There's no doubt that where Ireland lack depth at the minute is in those midfield positions...That midfield, Knight and Molumby, probably more so picked for their off the ball work rate than their on the ball abilities. Although Molumby I think has improved on the ball...and Knight is a very good player, but he's someone who makes breaks and latches onto attacks.

"You don't necessarily have [someone like] Callum McGregor who controls things a small bit more."

Will Smallbone and Gavin Kilkenny are potential call-ups for the November internationals. The under-21 team doesn't have fixtures during that window. Smallbone is particularly exciting, but Kilkenny is closer to the quarterback-style passer who will sit deep and slow the game down when Ireland need him to.

But neither player is an option for Tuesday night and neither player is even guaranteed to make the next squad.

Instead, Ireland can look at their current bench. Jeff Hendrick has more experience than any other Ireland midfielder. He played well for Kenny previously and McDonnell reckons he could have made a difference for Ireland on Saturday.

"He's an unpopular player with sections of the fanbase...something different would have been bringing in Jeff Hendrick. On a good day, and there have been good days under Kenny. [He's] a good passer and he has a bit of a presence.

"With his experience he could have taken a bit of the sting out of it. It was a bit frantic, the game in general."

Matt Doherty is expecting big things.


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Dan Mcdonnell Ireland Jeff Hendrick Josh Cullen Stephen Kenny