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'No One Has Ever Demanded Of Our Midfielders That They Take Responsibility'

'No One Has Ever Demanded Of Our Midfielders That They Take Responsibility'
By PJ Browne
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For anyone who had managed to recover from the damage done by four years ago in Poland and Ukraine, this afternoon in Bordeaux undoubtedly uncovered some old scars.

It was a grim Irish performance, one bereft of positives. Our weaknesses were ruthlessly exploited by Belgium.

Post-match was primed for some over-the-top Eamon Dunphy analysis. But it didn't really come. Relative to previous extreme opinions, he was quite measured.

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The number one issue for Dunphy coming out of that horrible 90 minutes was a lack of concentration - especially from our midfielders whose lacking of tracking Belgian runners cost us dearly.

There are somethings you cannot forgive. Lacking concentration is one of them. We have people like Joe Schmidt, if you went in the dressing room and you weren't concentrating, if you go on the pitch and you don't focus for the whole period you get done by your fellow players, you coach will do you and that's what's missing in that Irish situation, I think. Too many players floating through games, the midfield players McCarthy and Whelan floating through games. These guys are multi-millionaires, they're playing in the richest league in the world - the Premier League - but hunger and desire, is it there? I don't think it is, week in, week out. I think when they pull the Irish shirt on, it is.

Everytime you go into the training ground you've got to have it all. If you don't have it, the guy next to you - when I played with John [Giles] and I was just a journeyman, he'd get on my case. If your concentration lapsed, if you gave a guy a yard, he'd be on your case.

For Belgium's second goal, a header by Axel Witsel, Liam Brady agreed that James McCarthy's failure to track the player was a major factor in the concession of the goal.

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After this, Dunphy did wade into some cliche, trotting out his usual list of the greats of Irish sport as examples of who our footballers should be looking to emulate.

The Kilkenny hurling team, Brian Cody, if you lapsed concentration for ten seconds - in training, their training matches are savage - Joe Schmidt, these people, Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins, Aidan O'Brien, all the great sports people that we have in this country - lapse in concentration, out the door.

It's a different culture, we have to set the bar up for our footballers. To be fair to them, they come from Premier League culture where everything is overhyped and everyone's a great player and everyone's walking home every week with 80 grand. That's not happening in Kilkenny and it's not happening with our great jockeys, trainers, hurlers, camogie, the Cork women football team. Lapse in concentration? You're in the wrong place, go down the road.

The players on the pitch were undoubtedly at fault, but for Dunphy, ultimate criticism should come for the Irish management team.

The spotlight should be on Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane. I'd ask a big question - Roy Keane, I was thinking before the match 'I wish Roy Keane was playing today'. The Roy Keane that we knew. There would be no lapse in concentration.

What we have got is an honesty of endeavour, mostly, and a preparedness to put our head in. Another thing [that's missing], responsibility, the responsibility to get on the ball. It's the hardest thing in football. Get on the ball and not be afraid to make mistakes.

No one has ever demanded of our midfielders that they take the responsibilty that Wesley Hoolahan takes, that Robbie Brady takes, that Hendrick is prepared to take.

These are the reasons we're sitting here feeling down.

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