Peter Fraser thinks the time is right for Republic of Ireland to move on from the likes of Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign
Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign has been arguably the greatest example of the gulf in class between the qualifying process and the finals. The lack in quality of Giovanni Trapattoni's team and his rigid tactics were sadly exposed.
The Boys in Green arrived in Poland on an unbeaten run of 14 games. But before the tournament got under way, there were questions about where their goals were going to come from in a Group C featuring Croatia, Italy and Spain.
And, along with the defensive mistakes, there was a clear problem in attacking threat for Ireland this summer. Doubts about the form of Kevin Doyle, who scored just four Premier League goals as Wolves were relegated, and the legs of 31-year-old LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane proved to be correct.
After managing just two shots on target against Italy, Ireland's total of accurate shots at goal during Euro 2012 came to 16. Defending European and world champions Spain managed 20 shots on target in just one match against Ireland. The one goal Ireland scored at the finals perhaps says more about Croatia's defending.
Against Italy in the first half, all the same problems were apparent. In the opening seconds, Doyle had the chance to run at the defence. But he did not shoot from 20 yards before overrunning possession. In a separate move, Keane had the opportunity to break. However, he was let down by a poor pass from a team-mate. Aiden McGeady also took too many touches on the edge of the box when given the chance to shoot.
McGeady, though, was the source of the attribute Ireland lack in attack - pace. That is what made it all the more surprising Trapattoni decided to substitute the Spartak Moscow winger in the 65th minute against Italy.
The player who was introduced, West Brom's Shane Long, was the correct decision. The striker scored twice as many goals as Doyle in the 2011/12 Premier League and his nimble runs, speed and clever movement caused Italy problems. It makes it all the more baffling why he played just 40 minutes at Euro 2012 having earlier been given a short run out against Croatia. Likewise, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox, who were both only introduced after 76 and 86 minutes, respectively, against Italy.
The same can be said of Sunderland star James McClean. He appeared for less than a quarter-of-an-hour in Poland, having been given just 14 minutes against Spain. The wide-man may lack experience but he has the pace, appetite and direct style of play which could have made him a surprise package at Euro 2012.
There is the lesson for Trapattoni. Despite all of his vast experience, the Italian needs to show a flexibility to change his tactics. His systems worked in qualifying and worked very well against lesser opposition.
But there are echoes of compatriot Fabio Capello's reign as England manager. There needs to be scope for tactical alterations at major finals. Ireland now need to look beyond Keane and Doyle. They need to give the future to the likes of McClean, Long, Walters and Cox.