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The Past Week Has Left Eamon Dunphy 'Horrified' About Ireland's Next Generation

The Past Week Has Left Eamon Dunphy 'Horrified' About Ireland's Next Generation
By Gary Reilly Updated

The past week or so has not been particularly positive for the Irish underage setup. Brian Kerr era of the late nineties this is not. Noel King's u21 side went down 3-1 to Slovakia and 4-1 to Italy. Paul Doolin's last game in charge of the u18 side saw his charges fall to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of England while the u17 side kicked off their UEFA Championships Elite Qualifying round with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Serbia.

It needs to be said that taking those defeats in isolation and using them to hammer the FAI/Irish coaches in general is unfair. Nonetheless, for quite a few fans and pundits, those results are simply a realisation of what has been said for quite some time now. There's an awful lot to be worried about after the current crop of players begin to drop away.

You just have to look at the prospects for Ireland's attack after Euro 2016. Robbie Keane will be gone while Daryl Murphy, Jon Walters and Wes Hoolahan are all edging closer to retirement age. Against Slovakia tonight, we're left with a situation whereby it's Shane Long or bust. The truth of the matter is that we may have to start getting used to that.

A lot has been made of Martin O'Neill's willingness to get Jack Byrne involved in the senior squad in the build up to the Swiss clash but the level expectation that we've placed on his, admittedly confident, shoulders is testament to just how much we're crying out for the next generation to start making their way through. The problem is that those two u21 defeats would suggest that's going to be easier said than done.

One man who would seem to share those worries is Eamon Dunphy. The RTÉ analyst was speaking on 2FM's Game On last night and he wasn't exactly upbeat about what is coming down in the tracks in terms of the talent available to the Irish senior squad.

I watched a bit of the Under-21 game. I thought it was very, very poor and a bit depressing. I was sort of horrified.

I know there is a constant debate going on about the underage game here and what might be done to improve it but something drastic does need to be done because after this present generation I don’t know what we’ve got.

It must be said that watching a bit of one game is not exactly enough to make sweeping statements but there's no doubt that there is some reason to be worried. We won't be qualifying for the 2017 European u21 Championship. Technically, it's still possible but, with two games against Serbia and the return fixture against Slovenia still to play, it's not looking good.

The reality is that Ireland have never actually qualified for a European u21 Championship. Essentially, we just need a couple of players from each crop to be able to make the ultimate breakthrough but, with an ageing squad under Martin O'Neill, it may be that more is needed from this current group of u21s than ever before.


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