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big match comment Finland v Ireland: If it was raining soup, Kenny would only have his hands on a fork

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Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly and Finland's Tim Sparv battle for the ball during the UEFA Nations League Group 4, League B match at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly and Finland's Tim Sparv battle for the ball during the UEFA Nations League Group 4, League B match at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium

PA

Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly and Finland's Tim Sparv battle for the ball during the UEFA Nations League Group 4, League B match at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Finland...1 Ireland...0

An Irish political leader, who wasn’t having a good time of things, was told by one of his very angry backbenchers: “If it was raining soup, you’d have a fork.”

Stephen Kenny must feel like he has an entire Newbridge Cutlery set of the things just now.

One goal scored in 480 minutes of international football. Two of his best players forced to miss the most important match of his reign because the seats on the plane were six feet apart, not the Irish Government’s required two metres, players dropping out of his squad on a daily basis, leaving him unable to fill out his subs’ bench in the last two games.

And to top it all off there is this game in Helsinki. Ireland are the only team to hit the woodwork, Ireland are the only team to force the opposition goalkeeper into making a world-class save and Ireland are also the only team whose goalkeeper doesn’t get a 20-yard pass to one of his colleagues spot on – and we lose the match because of that.

To take the latter point first, if Ireland insist on playing the ball out from the back, it is going to happen once in every few matches. Darren Randolph got away with one against Wales last Sunday, he didn’t in Helsinki.

And remember in the Nations League, you are playing against teams ranked alongside you. In the World Cup qualifiers next year, we will now probably have two teams ranked ahead of us. Say Germany and Poland as we had in qualifying for Euro 2016. Just think of how Timo Werner and Robert Lewandowski will gobble up any under-hit passes should we run into them in 2021.

And before you point out that we made it to Euro 2016, that was off the back of finishing third in the group. That won’t be good enough next year.

But to finish anywhere other than last in any qualifying group you have to score goals and just one in 480 minutes - and that from a set-piece - in our last five games is not good enough.

There’s no lack of effort, there’s just not the guile or class to get through, around or over an international quality defence.

We just have to plug on trying and hoping that, like the buses, when one comes, two or three might follow it.

And then to hope that the likes of Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah, Jonothan Afolabi, Michael Obafemi, or the great hope, Troy Parrott, progress and mature into international strikers.

But these things take time. Take the case of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a World Cup winner at U-20 level with England in 2017. But it is only now, three-and-a-half years later, that he is stepping up to the mark as a senior with Everton and England.

Yes, things are grim for the Boys in Green and they could be about to become grimmer. Get your soup spoon!

Online Editors