Painful! The only word an Irishman can use to describe the recent European Championships qualifiers. And again, the root cause of our woes has been the ineptitude of the FAI and their poor decisions regarding the management of the national team.
In 1996, as Big Jack stepped aside, having lead the country into a golden era of unprecedented success, they got it wrong by appointing Mick McCarthy his successor. McCarthy's only management history at that point was with Millwall, who were relegated under his leadership. A top player for us, but never the right man for the top job.
McCarthy's reign was patchy, failing to qualify for the 1998 and 2000 tournaments, yet gaining new contracts in spite of failure. I was anti-McCarthy from the outset and I still believe we could have been a force in 2002, had we had the right leadership. Even on his way out the door he managed to screw up our start to the 2004 European qualification campaign. A start we never recovered from.
So who next. Many names were bandied about. Some household, some international pedigree, but who do the FAI go for? The cheap option, again! Brian Kerr was a legend in Irish football for his success with under age teams and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
When he failed, most notably during the Israel games, and we missed the 2006 World Cup, he got the sack. Harsh when you consider the rewards McCarthy received for his failures. I also think he had the less to work with of the last four men to hold the job.
Enter Stan and the ailing Bobby Robson. I recall the day they were unveiled and 'stunned silence' was the feeling from everyone I spoke to. "Great player, but what the f***?" was the general consensus.
Despite having a good bunch of players to pick from Stan has failed again and again to select the right 11 - it's the results that have suffered. Lots has been made of Duff's absence in recent months, but truth be told he - like Robbie Keane - save their best for their respective clubs.
The last two games summed up Stan's reign and I suspect (and hope) have ended it. Aidan McGeady, though hugely ineffective in both, played the vast majority of the games. Shane Long and Steve Hunt hardly got a look in, despite the fact they are playing premiership football week-in week-out. Hunt in particular has been a fixture in Steve Coppell's team, yet only injury got him on the pitch last night. I can guarantee he wouldn't have given up the chase in injury time in Slovakia on Saturday!
In defence, Stephen Kelly is a liability - he has no pace and despite a good year for Birmingham in the Championship, will be found out by the big boys this year. There is a reason he's not still at Spurs. Finnan was a huge lose and forced a re-shuffle, but surely Kilbane should have played left back (as he is with his club) and Hunt on the left side of midfield (yes, I did make this comment prior to the Slovakia game).
Ultimately there is only so much blame we can lay at Stan's feet. He is, I'm sure, doing his best, but I want to know why he was put in there. My beef in recent years is mostly with the FAI. While Delaney and co. are paying themselves top dollar, they are subjecting the country to a manager who has little or (in Stan's case) no real management experience. It's time to pay someone the big bucks, then we can reasonably expect to get the big results.
Until then, sadly, 45th in the world (or whatever we are ranked) is where we belong!