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brennan's brief Plenty of positives from Qatar draw but Ireland's defensive frailties are there for all to see

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Irish players leave the pitch after the International friendly draw with Qatar in Hungary

Irish players leave the pitch after the International friendly draw with Qatar in Hungary

Irish players leave the pitch after the International friendly draw with Qatar in Hungary

First the positives, and yes there were positives from last night’s draw with Qatar. Between Caoimhin Kelleher at Liverpool and Gavin Bazunu at Manchester City via Rochdale, Ireland’s goalkeeping conundrum for the next 15 years.

Jason Knight showed again why Wayne Rooney made him captain of Derby County while he was still a teenager. He could be a huge midfield player for Ireland for just as long as the two lads are the goalkeepers.

And there was no lack of spirit or fight from a team and squad that had been through a hard ten days of matches, travelling, playing and disappointment – also carrying the reality that our chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup is already gone.

But there were negatives too. Yet again, we played three at the back and conceded a goal, that’s five shipped in three matches in seven days playing a system that is alien to Irish footballers.

Former international Kevin Doyle, analysing last week’s two matches, made a great point. “Most footballers love playing 3-5-2 at club level. The wing-backs love it, they’ve space to bomb forward. The midfielders love it, they’ve plenty of cover behind if they make a mistake. And us strikers love it, because it means you’ve a partner, rather than playing on your own up front or with someone just off you.

“But the goalkeeper and the centre-halves always hated it and moaned about it to the manager at any club I played at. We’ve always grown up with the goalkeeper knowing who is commanding his defence, and with the centre-halves knowing they have only to glance left or right to see where their partner is.

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Stephen Kenny has a tough road ahead to revive Ireland's fortunes

Stephen Kenny has a tough road ahead to revive Ireland's fortunes

Stephen Kenny has a tough road ahead to revive Ireland's fortunes

“With three at the back, no-one is in charge. You can tell a player that he is leading the line, but it doesn’t work.”

And so it didn’t in Debrecen, where Qatar’s goal, like Luxembourg’s, came from a long-distance shot where none of the ‘back three’ closed down the shooter.

Our lack of killer instinct in front of goal showed up again as well. Former Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni once cruelly put down Shane Long as “a scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer” – and that was well before Shane scored the goal that will forever define his Ireland career, the one that beat Germany.

An international striker has to convert the chance that comes his way, which he failed to do in the first half, that’s just the bare truth of it. Sadly, Josh Cullen is not known for scoring goals either, but it was to him that our late header for a winner fell.

What a pity neither chance fell to Troy Parrott. For the first time in his career the Spurs starlet - now with Ipswich - got a good run in an Irish shirt, not just five minutes at the end.

Parrott showed nice touches, but you just wish one of those two gilt-edged chances had fallen to him, to see if there’s a glint of hope he might become the great ‘golador’, as the legend Con Houlihan used to put it, that we so badly need.

Despite our World Cup campaign being realistically over – we are not going to recover a seven-point deficit on either Portugal or Serbia with just six games remaining to be played – it appears Stephen Kenny is going to stay on as manager. The FAI do not appear to have the instinct nor the finance right now to ditch this experiment and get in a new boss, who would demand a far bigger salary than Kenny.

Maybe Stephen will turn it around and the autumn international windows will bring better performances and results and he’ll go on to the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Or maybe an Irish team being booed off the Aviva pitch, when the fans are back, after we’ve been hockeyed by Portugal, will force the FAI to act.

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