ANALYSIS: Winning the passing is no guarantor of success

Alan O’Brien 

We won the passing: a phrase that entered the meme lexicon in 2012 courtesy of Brendan Rodgers, whose bizarre Brentish utterances upon ascending the Anfield throne amused and baffled football fans in equal measure. “I’ve always worked with the statistic that if you can dominate the game with the ball you have a 79% chance of winning the game,” Rodgers confidently asserted, quoting a “statistic” that doesn’t actually exist. How we all laughed. And yet, a little over eight years later, many sensitive Irish football fans, keen to defend their anointed saviour Stephen Kenny, have been throwing around meaningless numbers with gay abandon, executing their best Rodgers impressions without an ounce of irony or a tongue-in-cheek in sight. What is going on?

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ANALYSIS: Kenny flexibility augurs well for the future

Alan O’Brien 

No one does confirmation bias quite like football fans. In the aftermath of Ireland’s unfortunate Euro 2020 exit on Thursday night, two highly hyperbolic camps re-emerged to insist on what they had just seen: one camp loudly hailing a swashbuckling display of attacking, free-flowing, possession-based football, the clear beginning of a new Stephen Kenny-led dawn for Irish football; the other damning an ineffectual outcome from a no-name manager they never rated anyway. Predictably, however, neither polarised group got it quite right — even if the plethora of journalists and broadcasters ensconced in the former might convince you otherwise.

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ANALYSIS: Kenny must compromise his principles to survive

Alan O’Brien 

When Giovanni Trapattoni first assumed the Republic of Ireland reins in 2008, much was made of the Italian’s legendary focus on football’s “little details”, manna from heaven for an Irish faithful weary of Steve Staunton’s rank amateurism. Not even the simple act of defending a throw-in, allegedly practised ad nauseum in pre-match training sessions, escaped Trapattoni’s obsessive eye. The message was simple: there is no grand ideology; ultra-pragmatism and attention to detail will win the day.

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ANALYSIS: Kenny’s vision of McCarthy is a mirage

Alan O’Brien 

Not being all-in on Stephen Kenny can be seen as a kind of heresy around these parts. The new Republic of Ireland manager’s unashamed idealism and refreshing candour have won over almost the entire Irish football community, with the possible exception of a smattering of skeptical ex-pros, whose company I’m not particularly thrilled to keep. But this writer has long met many of Kenny’s public pronouncements with an uneasy mixture of bemusement and concern. And none had me scratching my head more vigourously than Kenny’s eye-opening comments about James McCarthy earlier in the week. Continue reading

OPINION: Delaney is just the tip of the iceberg

Alan O’Brien 

Just under two years have passed since the night I reluctantly resolved to stop covering grassroots football. Hours removed from a skirmish with two officers of the Limerick District League Committee, the oft-repeated advice of a friend echoed insistently around my head: “no one cares”. I had railed against that suggestion for months, certain that my dripfeed of exposés about endemic LDLC misconduct would eventually inspire the Limerick football public into action. But the events of May 21, 2017 finally – belatedly – convinced me otherwise. My friend was right: fighting the good fight alone was futile, and it was time to walk away. And, at the end of the 2016/17 season, that’s exactly what I did.

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COMMENT: Much-maligned McCarthy is no idealist…and that’s a good thing

Alan O’Brien 

“Two old farts who know nothing about the game, eh?” So spoke Mick McCarthy back in August of 2017, shortly after his Ipswich Town side had maintained their perfect start to yet another arduous Championship campaign. Level on points at the summit with Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City, McCarthy couldn’t resist the opportunity to needle at his detractors in typically wry fashion. Four straight wins had earned him the right, in his eyes, to fire another bullet at disgruntled Portman Road attendees, many of whom had long grown weary of his not particularly eye-catching brand of football. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Blues fail to best Barrett’s barmy back-three

Alan O’Brien 

Since he last faced Waterford, Tommy Barrett’s luck had not exactly been in. In the eight games following May’s 6-3 RSC victory, Limerick FC managed only one win. Good performances, achieved in the teeth of cashflow problems and player departures, were met with scant reward. Barrett, in other words, was due a touch of good fortune. And on Friday night he finally got it. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Lucky Lilywhites have it all to do in Larnaca

Alan O’Brien 

Shorn of five first-teamers, AEK Larnaca still won the tactical battle against hosts Dundalk. Playing with a heavily depleted deck, novice manager Andoni Iraola outmatched Stephen Kenny on his first night in football management. Level ahead of Thursday’s second leg in Cyprus, the Lilywhites will struggle to succeed where Cork City have failed before them. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Belated Byrne powers ponderous Pat’s to victory

Alan O’Brien 

St Patrick’s Athletic’s win drought is over. Having presided over seven straight defeats, shipping 18 goals along the way, Liam Buckley’s thirst was in danger of becoming terminal. The Saints only bagged three goals of their own throughout that abject run, too. And, on the basis of the first-half here, it’s easy to see why. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Sundgren sunders Bradley’s harmless Hoops

Alan O’Brien 

This was Stephen Bradley’s shot at glory. Despite boasting eight full internationals, AIK arrived in Tallaght with precisely zero interest in controlling proceedings. Shamrock Rovers, therefore, were invited to give the Swedes their best shot. But, alas, their visitors escaped with nary an eyelash out of place. The Hoops, in short, were absolutely harmless here. Continue reading