Ridiculed by his own fans at club level, Cyrus Christie responds in the best possible way

After taking some flak from Derby’s supporters, the Irish full-back performed excellently against Uruguay last night.

Ireland's Cyrus Christie celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Jonathan Walters, Jonny Hayes, Shane Duffy and Jeff Hendrick.
Ireland's Cyrus Christie celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Jonathan Walters, Jonny Hayes, Shane Duffy and Jeff Hendrick.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 10.10

1. Cyrus Christie silences critics

IT’S BEEN WELL documented that Cyrus Christie is the nephew of the former professional boxer Errol, and the Derby defender has taken a few blows of his own lately.

But like the best boxers when faced with turbulent situations, Christie has displayed a level of fight and resilience to emerge from his difficulties in a stronger position.

Injury problems have hampered his progress at club level in recent times, while the 24-year-old has even struggled to get in the Derby side of late. Since Gary Rowett’s appointment as the Rams’ manager in March, the Irish international has started just two games for the club.

In a recent interview with The Irish Sun, the defender spoke of his struggles to make the side, while claiming he can be the best full-back in the Championship “on my day”.

These remarks led to inevitable scorn on social media, with some Derby fans mocking his claims, lamenting perceived inadequate performances and harshly suggesting Christie “typifies what is wrong” with the club.

On Saturday, in a since-deleted tweet, the defender hit back at this negative reaction to what had been a lengthy and heartfelt interview on a variety of subjects.

“Apologies for having some self belief, astonishing to see so many of my own fans/supporters abuse me who clearly didn’t want to read the article properly,” he quipped.

You could argue that Christie should have ignored the naysayers — they will always exist. After all, even Cristiano Ronaldo, while pulling off feats that are unprecedented in football and will probably never be bettered, gets whistled by his own fans.

But Christie is a human being and such ridicule must be difficult to ignore at times. Indeed, in a way, it is refreshing to see a footballer express a rare show of emotion and vulnerability, diverting from the usual media-training-inspired script.

Although what is most impressive is how Christie has responded on the field to the abuse off it. The star had already distinguished himself in New Jersey on Thursday, where he was one of the few Irish players who did themselves justice against Mexico.

Yet while his performance in the States was satisfactory, last night, he excelled, and was hard done by in missing out on the man-of-the-match award, which was given to the similarly impressive Harry Arter.

Christie’s energy and link-up play with Brady were increasingly impressive as the game wore on, and the Coventry-born star was rewarded with a goal, which took a slight deflection, in the 51st minute

In performing do well, the defender will have silenced a few critics, and if he can maintain that standard, he should have no problem regaining his spot in the Derby side next season.

Christie has even performed well when called upon by Ireland in the past, starring in the memorable 1-0 win over Germany in the Euro 2016 qualifiers at the Aviva Stadium back in October 2015.

If he didn’t already, Martin O’Neill must now feel confident that the right-back slot is in good hands despite Seamus Coleman’s long-term absence.

“There are obviously big shoes to fill and Cyrus has always done well for us,” the Ireland boss said last night. “In many aspects, he’s unlucky that someone as brilliant as Seamus is in front of him.

“But he took himself off as well too to get physically fit before we even met up in Cork. Credit to him, he’s desperate to do well. I thought he was excellent today. And he was one of our better lights in the game against Mexico.”

2. Uruguay coach impressed by “intense” Ireland

Oscar Tabarez Uruguay coach Óscar Tabárez pictured in the Aviva Stadium press room. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Invariably after an Ireland match, the opposition manager will use the words ‘spirit’ and ‘long balls’ to describe the Irish team’s performance.

Refreshingly, neither of those terms were referred to by Uruguay boss Óscar Tabárez last night.

Instead, the 70-year-old coach who has been in charge of Uruguay since 2006 said the following: “They are a very intense team and in terms of athleticism, a very strong team and very fast. Overall, they are a very, very strong team, very focused, very well-organised and that’s the goal of football.”

For once, it seemed, Ireland’s strengths were being seen in a positive light rather than sceptics discussing them in a vaguely condescending manner.

This intensity, of course, is nothing new to Irish football — Jack Charlton’s teams were famous for the ‘put-’em-under-pressure’ mentality.

But whereas once that was seen as unsophisticated, now the approach is being considered somewhat fashionable.

In the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side, in particular, have been hailed this season for their relentless energy and pressing, so perhaps Irish teams are being looked at in a different fashion as a consequence.

3. What does last night tell us about the team selection for Austria?

Soccer 2017 - Mexico defeats Republic of Ireland 3 to 1 Wes Hoolahan will be hoping his eye-catching recent performances will have earned him a starting spot against Austria. Source: Mark Smith

Last night’s Ireland-Uruguay clash arguably prompted more questions than answers with respect to the likely starting XI in next week’s pivotal World Cup qualifier with Austria.

A costly error from Darren Randolph led O’Neill to hint that his place as the unquestioned number one goalkeeper could be under threat.

Moreover, is John O’Shea’s absence both last night and against Mexico good or bad for his hopes of featuring on Sunday?

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Will Jon Walters start up front or be accommodated on the right, with Daryl Murphy leading the line?

Certainly, a number of players who aren’t necessarily certain starters for the Austria game did themselves no harm last night. Keiren Westwood, Harry Arter and Wes Hoolahan all enhanced their claims for a starting berth at the Aviva next week. By contrast, players who were initially expecting to play in the Austria encounter, such as Darren Randolph and Glenn Whelan, may suddenly be sweating a little now.

Even Kevin Long looked remarkably assured for someone making his full international debut and who has played just four times all season for Burnley.

Yet the 26-year-old Cork native will almost certainly make way for a more experienced player next week. O’Neill recently cited a “lack of experience” as the reason for in-form League of Ireland striker Sean Maguire not figuring in his plans, and so it would seem slightly hypocritical if he fielded a player who only made his Premier League debut last month, for the Austria match in Vienna.

The centre-back slots therefore look likely to be occupied by Shane Duffy alongside either Richard Keogh or O’Shea. Christie and Stephen Ward are expected to reprise their full-back roles from last night, even though it was Brady who played on the left side of the defence in the reverse game in Austria with Ward injured.

Burnley midfield pair Brady and Hendrick will almost certainly feature, as will James McClean and Jon Walters.

Who joins them depends on whether O’Neill decides on power or finesse, experience or adventure.

Most fans will be hoping an entertainer in Wes Hoolahan will be included in the side, though O’Neill hasn’t always embraced the Norwich man. He could instead opt for a brawnier side as he did to begin with yesterday, implementing Hendrick in the most attacking midfield role complemented by Arter and Whelan sitting behind him. He could also opt for Murphy to lead the line with Walters sitting wide right.

At the moment, it seems seven players are more or less certain starters — Christie, Ward, Duffy, Brady, Hendrick, McClean and Walters.

Of the four remaining spots, Randolph, Westwood, O’Shea, Keogh, Whelan, Hoolahan, Arter and Murphy will all be hoping not to miss out.

However, the fact that even in the absence of Hoolahan and Brady, Aiden McGeady was afforded just a 10-minute cameo in the Wales match back in March suggests the Preston winger will probably be held in reserve again.

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Paul Fennessy

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