Ireland’s defeat by Luxembourg last night shouldn’t have shocked anyone.
A text received from a friend pre match said, ‘It shows how far we have fallen that we are worried about playing Luxembourg.’
The fact that it came from a season ticket holder at the Aviva, and a regular at away games, in addition to playing a leading role in a local league, means it probably summed up the thoughts of all Irish fans.
In fact it seems that maybe the only ones not worried about playing Luxembourg were the very ones who should have been the management and the squad.
Suggest to Navan sports psychologist Alan Heary that Stephen Kenny’s first error was in selecting Gavin Bazunu ahead of Mark Travers in goal, and immediately he sees the point.
He told Meath Live, ‘ I get what you are saying, your point is not football related, so yeah the message that was being sent out to the rest of the squad is we can beat these guys with a kid in goal who has never played at this level before and that’s not a great message to be sending.
‘Add into it the fact that after nine games without a win before last night there would have been an expectation that this was the match in which the duck would be broken, something that was only added to by introducing a novice goalkeeper, who incidentally played well, and the reason for the below par performance begins to emerge.’
Heary adds another intriguing train of thought to bolster his argument that perhaps the sides psychological preparation was not all it should be.
‘Have you ever noticed where an athlete or a team are huge underdogs in an event how they tend to start of well, perform above themselves in the first half before the champions reel them in.
‘The reason for that is that the champion suddenly realises ‘Shit these are better than I thought’ and ups their game.
‘But human nature being what it is you can’t always tun the switch and find your form, and if you look at last night everyone watching and I expect the manager as well would have thought at half time, we’ve had our wake up call let;s get the job done, the problem was when they flicked the switch they discovered it wasn’t working.
‘I worked with Steve Collins for a number of his world title defences and for a lot of them he used a boxer from Middlesbrough called Cornelius Carr as a sparring partner, Carr was a decent boxer but not at Steve’s level.
‘Then out of the blue Carr got a shot at the title and for the first few rounds he was in control until Steve upped his game and stopped him.
‘He admitted after that he had got out of jail because there were nights he might not have been able to raise his performance level mid fight, and Ireland could not last night’.
A further issue was that after a nine game run in which a win avoided them, doubts would have set in with the entire Irish squad and despite what he might portray publicly Stephen Kenny.
Heary said, ‘ When you haven’t won for so long you begin to doubt your ability to do so, okay it was Luxembourg and the players would have gone out with the mindset that we can beat these but the longer they went without scoring the more doubts came into their mind, whatever about the football end of things the mental preparation wasn’t at the level required,’