Shane Duffy's disappointing night, and why Keane is better for Ireland than Celtic

By Euan Davidson

March 31, 2021

Even with Celtic man Shane Duffy returning to the fold, Ireland cannot buy a win just now.

The Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Qatar, in Stephen Kenny’s latest bad result as an international boss. Shane Duffy made a number of defensive interventions for the Boys in Green [RTÉ], in a game that could’ve been more ignominious.

James McClean opened the scoring after just 4 minutes. However, Ireland couldn’t retain the lead when Zainalabiddin Abdulla struck just minutes into the second half. The Boys in Green just couldn’t find that spark to get a winner. Eventually, it culminated in the worst start for an Ireland manager in 50 years [BBC].

Neil Lennon has already been linked with the job, should the FAI adjudge Stephen Kenny to not be the man. Kenny’s side haven’t won in 11 matches, the worst record since a winless streak between 1969 and 1971. While Ireland’s squad isn’t necessarily what it used to be, it’s not that bad either.

Funnily enough, it’s the second time Damien Duff has left a set-up to see it immediately worsen. There’ll be some Ireland supporters who’d like to see him in the dugout.

There’s a potentially better shout than Lennon though, or Duff. An appointment that could appease Ireland supporters and sceptical Celtic fans alike. He’s controversial, certainly, but Roy Keane has already been the Republic’s assistant, and seems to have regained some goodwill years after walking out on Mick McCarthy.

Keane and Keane / (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Roy Keane could sort this Ireland team

There are qualities Roy Keane possesses that are well-established. He’s supposedly an old-school man manager. That could actually work better in International Football than at club level. The distance between international breaks means that Keane would have longer to refine his tactics, and build relationships with his players.

It’s also a shot at redemption, in a way. Certainly, with time, people have come to understand Roy Keane’s decision to leave the Ireland squad in 2002 [Guardian]. He might not outwardly seem to care about how he’s perceived, but I’d be amazed if there wasn’t a part of him that still thinks about that World Cup.

If he was to emulate his mentor in Martin O’Neill by taking Ireland to a tournament, it’d surely complete his redemption arc with his national team.

Furthermore, what concerns many Celtic fans about Roy Keane is the room for failure. In tactical terms, Roy Keane’s methods at Ipswich and Sunderland were quite regressive, and his personnel decisions, especially in the latter stages with the Black Cats, seemed scatter-gun. International football means he has proper time to think about his squad, and he’s also got room to fail initially. If he can put some fight back into this toothless ROI side then supporters won’t mind drawing or losing, to start. It’s a different kind of process.

Whereas with Celtic, as Stiliyan Petrov said yesterday, you don’t get that kind of time.

Shane Duffy is consoled by Ireland coach Keith Andrews / (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Shane Duffy could’ve used a far better international break

There are many aspects of this season that are out of Shane Duffy’s control. In truth, we have to be more careful about how we talk about him.

Because, yes, it hasn’t gone right for him this year, but there are factors there that are bigger than football. I’ll admit myself, I’ve hammered the guy for his Celtic performances. They haven’t been good enough, but nobody will be more aware of that than Duffy himself. It’s not like he’s got a gallus swagger about him despite not playing well, he often looks crestfallen.

I said before the international break that Duffy could’ve really used a confidence boosting time away with Ireland. There was nothing in the three matches that would’ve inspired much hope, though. Benched against Serbia and Luxembourg, Duffy worked valiantly against Qatar but couldn’t do it by himself.

Ireland’s next game is against Portugal. Whether Shane Duffy plays that match is unclear. What’s even more uncertain is who’ll be in the dugout.

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