There was plenty of online reaction on Monday when news emerged that Ireland’s new number 10 was Norwich City midfielder cum left back, Robbie Brady.
However while they may share the same first name and now the same international number the transition from Keane and Brady did not go as smooth as people expected in Serbia.
Brady was Ireland’s standout player at Euro 2016. His winner against Italy will live long in the memory and will go down in footballing legend. The fact that he added to that goal with another effort against eventual finalists France, means his name is etched in Irish history.
The 24 year old even managed to briefly steal the limelight in Keane’s swansong appearance, scoring a glorious free-kick against Oman at the Aviva.
However against Serbia he failed to take control of the game. A left midfielder that has transitioned to left back, Brady found himself in a more advanced role in Belgrade playing as part of a three man midfield.
But with expectations high he faded away and shirked the responsibility. Taking the mantle of Keane is a big ask and while he was able to come out from the shadows with the 36 year old still in the frame, the chance to be the main man led to some stage fright.
Brady started well to be fair to him but a combination of high pressing by the Serbians, a poor pitch and equally poor decision making led to him losing his way.
With Glenn Whelan failing to step up as the ‘veteran’ midfielder alongside Brady and Jeff Hendrick, the Irish midfield failed to control the game, struggling in possession and leaving the back four exposed.
The three also struggled with their game management; Ireland constantly allowing teams to come at them once they take a lead is something the management will need to address before bigger games.
Brady’s left foot is a gem and his set-pieces led to both goals, however it was clear at times that when we had a freekick or corner the plan was to fire it in high.
His form in France means that he is golden boy of Irish football at present and by the evidence of the jersey number and advanced role, he is a pivotal man for manager Martin O’Neill. At present there is no other player in the Irish squad that possesses his invention, energy and delivery from the dead-ball. There is also no other as flexible.
There is a likelihood that at some point during the campaign he will revert to an attacking left back.
O’Neill needs to be careful with his protégé especially as he is still to find his best position and is developing as a player.