joys in green | 

I’m congratulating Stephen Kenny on getting this sort of performance out of Ireland

Boys in green are full value as the go toe-to-toe with their feted foes

Alan Browne’s late goal earned the Republic of Ireland a draw with Belgium (Brian Lawless/PA)

Paul McGrath

That was really classy by Ireland last night. The Boys in Green played quality football and stuck at their task until they got the draw.

They were well able to go toe-to-toe with not the front-line Belgian team, but one still containing plenty of quality players.

I'm delighted to congratulate Stephen Kenny on getting this sort of performance out of the team and squad.

I had my doubts about what he was trying to do with Ireland not so long ago.

But the senior players have bought into his ideas and younger players are coming through - that is the key.

Almost every squad announcement now seems to be about another new player being blooded.

Fair dues to Chiedozie Ogbene, he's the type of young lad us old grizzled centre-halves used to hate playing against.

He keeps running, he keeps working and kicking him won't do any good, because those lads keep coming back for more.

I can't believe he is still at Rotherham. Surely a bigger club wil be in for him soon?

This lad can be a big player for us for the next decade.

As can Jason Knight. Played out of position last night, I thought he was excellent all through in a very difficult role.

Jason was asked to help the strikers, but to help the midfielders too and that was a workload and a half.

But the Derby County player kept running and working and thoroughly deserved his applause when finally substituted.

I'm sure the professional in Stephen will be disappointed by Belgium's second goal.

It was the sort of goal Ireland's players don't like to concede.

We always take pride in our set-pieces and giving an opponent a free header in the penalty box just isn't good enough.

It's certainly something to work on with the DVD's over the next few days, Ireland ought to be doing better than that.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny celebrates Alan Browne's equaliser against Belgium. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

It was a rare blip on a really good Irish performance of flair and ball control and passing.

It was good to watch and showed that the team is growing and maturing now. May the good times be ahead of us.

I enjoyed the whole occasion last night, and was delighted to be honoured by the presentation of an FAI Centenary medal.

It shows what the Associationn can do when it gets organised and gets things moving.

It's onwards and upwards from here now, we've Lithuania on Tuesday and then God knows what will happen in June with our games against Ukraine.

Football must be the last thing on the minds of their suffering people right now.

But their pride will come through and we will play the Nations League games someday when everyone is ready.

And when they happen hopefully the Boys in Green will play as they played last night.

Meanwhile, I didn't think my comments last week about Manchester United waiting to get a top manager from the World Cup Finals would have such relevance so soon.

But here we are, we didn't have to wait for the winter World Cup to be played, Roberto Mancini is surely available now.

After last Thursday's incredible defeat in Palermo to North Macedonia, Mancini won't hang around with Italy for another year before he can even begin the qualifying process for Euro 2024.

He's just what United need right now. A strong manager with a proven track record of success with his clubs and with his country.

Mancini would take no guff off any under-performing Manchester United stars.

Indeed, I know for a fact that he has gone to top players after arriving at a club and simply told players to their face - "get your agent to find you a new club, you're out of here."

Mancini didn't become a bad manager off the back of what was clearly a freak result in Sicily last week.

Italy had all the possession, but the Macedonians scored with one of their two shots on target in the 95 minutes.

The game did however show up one weakness that we mentioned here last summer, even as Mancini led his team to glory at the Euros.

They don't have a proper goal-scoring centre-forward in the manner of a Robert Lewandowski or a Harry Kane.

Or a Paolo Rossi or Roberto Baggio from their own illustrious football history.

Italy got away with that last summer. They didn't last week.

Of course, Mancini comes would one huge issue - a piece of baggage that has the possibility of costing him the job.

Would the Stretford End accept as their figurehead a coach who led Manchester City to Premier League and Cup wins?

Moving across a divided football city didn't work out for Rafa Benitez at Everton.

He would have had to take the Toffees to the top of the table to be forgiven his time at Anfield.

When Rafa took them close to the bottom of the Premier League, there was only one way it was all going to end.

I suspect United's supporters might give the Italian a chance.

United supporters are desperate for the glory days to return and I don't think they will be too bothered by the background of the man who gets them there.

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