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Martin O'Neill Turning To Brian Cody's Wisdom Is Not Good News For Ireland

Gary Reilly
By Gary Reilly Updated

On Sunday, Martin O'Neill, Roy Keane and some of the Ireland squad took a break from preparations for the Georgia game by taking in the hurling at Croke Park. We say a break from the preparations but you could argue there's no better preparation for a big game than learning a thing or two from Kilkenny's incredible ability to suffocate the opposition and close out a game.

Whether Ireland put that scouting mission into practice on Monday night is up for debate but Martin O'Neill at least seemed to pick up a thing or two from Brian Cody.

There were some parallels to be drawn between Ireland's win over Georgia and Kilkenny's win over Galway in the sense that both teams were below their optimum in the first half and rallied in the second to do what was needed.

There was undoubtedly a change in the Irish set-up after halftime but rather than credit that to the introduction of Shane Long or a general change in the system of play, O'Neill looked to the man he had seen in Croke Park the previous day.

I heard a fantastic manager, Mr Cody from Kilkenny, say ‘sometimes people step up to the plate when you really want them’.

So, what we're going to take from that is that he was relying on someone pulling something special out of the hat. Lucky enough that's exactly what happened. Jeff Hendrick turned into Messi for a couple of seconds and Jon Walters got on the end of it.

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Just like in Tbilisi, the rabbit was once again pulled out of the hat and we're still in with a chance of qualification. However, there's something rather uncomfortable about O'Neill's quoting of Cody given that the team Cody has built and the one which O'Neill has inherited are very different entities.

The system Cody has built means that the base level of performance is always there. The incredible talent at his disposal means that something special is just a bonus. The fact that O'Neill has decided to pick that Cody quote is particularly telling.

Throughout this entire campaign, Ireland have trudged from late goal to late goal without ever looking even remotely impressive. Be it McGeady in Tbilisi or Hendrick in Dublin, it's either a case of someone stepping up to the plate or seeing out another listless performance.

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If no one steps up to the plate for Kilkenny, as a unit, they're still the best team in Ireland. If no one steps for Ireland, we're currently swimming in the paddling pool of European football.

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