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kenny woe The good, the bad and the ugly from Ireland's World Cup qualifying defeat in Serbia

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Stephen Kenny, Head Coach of Republic of Ireland shakes hands with Dragan Stojkovic, head coach of Serbia prior to the FIFA World Cup qualifying match. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Stephen Kenny, Head Coach of Republic of Ireland shakes hands with Dragan Stojkovic, head coach of Serbia prior to the FIFA World Cup qualifying match. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Stephen Kenny, Head Coach of Republic of Ireland shakes hands with Dragan Stojkovic, head coach of Serbia prior to the FIFA World Cup qualifying match. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Ireland started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 3-2 defeat against Serbia in Belgrade and this is what we learned from a night of highs and lows.

The club problem

The lack of minutes at club level haunted Ireland and our players against Serbia. Slowly but surely, Ireland’s players ran out of steam to play the hard-running and hard-pressing game that was so effective in the first half hour in Belgrade.

In that period Ireland did a decent impression of the old Jack Charlton days when we hadn’t got the ball. But you’ve got to be playing 90 minutes most weeks at your club to be doing that and its effectiveness waned as the match went on. Stephen Kenny brought in a bunch of second half reinforcements, but it was too little, too late. The Serbian ship had sailed by then in spite of the late gift of a second goal from the home team.

Captain fantastic

Seamus Coleman has to be a fixture in this Irish team. Stephen Kenny’s reluctance to play the Killybegs man in the Nations League last year seems all the stranger now after Coleman’s fine effort in Belgrade. He brought experience and leadership to the cause. Surely, after this game, there has to be no doubt about Seamus being an Irish first choice and the captain too.

Shining light

Jayson Molumby is a fine footballer. Last night was not the first time he played well in midfield for Ireland in his short international career. Which makes his struggle to really nail down a club place all the more hard to fathom. Brighton were quite happy to farm him out on loan earlier this season – and they are not exactly kicking up a storm in the Premier League. The lack of many club minutes was probably behind Molumby’s exit after an hour and we began to lose a foothold in the match when he departed.

Midfield void

For all the good points against Serbia, it was against evident that Ireland have no midfielder able to play the killer pass, the one that will open up an international defence, like Dusan Tadic, who provided the passes for the second and third Serbian goals.

Time and again attempts to play through the home defence always came to naught when it came to the last pass, the one that would have played a white shirt in on goal. This want of inspiration was evident in Kenny’s first games in charge and it was on show again here. It’s no good playing the way Stephen wants to, if we can’t get the last bit right.

World Cup woe

It’s a long way to Qatar now, even after only one match. Put simply, even to get into the play-offs, we have to beat Serbia in Dublin in September. And then hope, somehow, to get one more point from our two jousts with the European champions Portugal than the Serbians do. It makes Saturday night’s clash between Serbia and Portugal, back in Belgrade, a massive one for Ireland. We need Cristiano Ronaldo and the boys to do a number on Serbia.

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