Robbie Brady was one of Ireland's standout players in France. PA Wire/Press Association Images
Taking the positives

5 positives for Ireland to take from Euro 2016

It’s been a mixed couple of weeks for Ireland, but there are plenty of positives to take from France

1. We have a new young core to the side

AS MARTIN O’NEILL pointed out after the loss to France, some of our young players came of age over the course of the tournament – singling out Shane Duffy, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady.

But at this moment in time, these three players will be playing in England’s second tier next season and getting a move to a Premier League club will be imperative for their development, which can only benefit the national team in the future.

Hendrick has been particularly outstanding for Ireland, showing maturity and composure on the ball that nobody would have been expecting before the tournament, while we all knew of Brady’s qualities before the competition, he has shown leadership qualities beyond his years.

Duffy on the other hand is still showing signs of rawness, which is natural for a defender with only five caps, but should only move if he is guaranteed first-team football, having made 121 league appearances in his career so far.

France v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Lyon Thibault Camus Thibault Camus

2. O’Neill has stumbled upon a formation that suits this Irish team

Under Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland would frustratingly implement the same 4-4-2 formation, no matter the opposition or the situation the team found itself in. This more often than not, left Ireland outnumbered in midfield.

O’Neill on the other hand has been the opposite to his predecessor – often tinkering not only the personnel, but the shape of the team, moving from a flat four with Wes Hoolahan in the hole, to a diamond formation that never really suited the players at his disposal.

But with the 4-3-3 formation, Ireland look to be comfortable in defensive areas while having plenty of options in attack. One area O’Neill does need to work on though is the amount of space and time offered to opposition wingers and attacking full-backs, but this could be the formation to implement in the forthcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

France v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Lyon Chris Radburn Chris Radburn

3. This team has a new leader in Seamus Coleman

With Shay Given, John O’Shea and Robbie Keane all possibly retiring, Ireland will be losing three players that have amassed 390 international caps between them.

Ireland now need new leaders to emerge and in Coleman, we may have found a new captain to skipper the team into the next campaign. The Donegal man, who has captained Ireland before, rose to the challenge – particularly against Italy, where he led by example, while also firing instructions to his teammates.

At just 27 and with 38 caps, the Everton right-back is the main contender to be named Ireland’s new captain.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy John Walton John Walton

4. Reaching the knockout stages was a fine achievement

To get through one of the toughest qualifying groups containing Germany, Poland (who are both now into the quarter-finals) and Scotland was a difficult task even if it meant overcoming a tricky-looking Bosnia side in the play-offs.

Although there were plenty of bumps on the road, and yes, the competition was expanded to 24 teams, to qualify for France was a success for this group of players.

In the draw for the finals, Ireland were again in the most difficult group of all – containing some of the tournament’s big guns, in Belgium, Italy and Sweden.

Again, the expansion of the tournament helped Ireland, finishing as one of the best third placed teams, thanks to a victory over a second-string Italian team. But beating any Italian team, at any time is difficult, especially at a major finals. And the dramatic way Ireland secured their passage into the next round, made it all the sweeter.

Ireland eventually fell to the pre-tournament favourites, who were no doubt helped with the extra few days rest and the backing of a partisan crowd, but not before Ireland gave them one hell of a scare.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Michel Spingler Michel Spingler

5. The Irish fans believe again

Since the departure of Mick McCarthy in 2002, the FAI have appointed four different managers – with varying degrees of success.

While for some, Brian Kerr’s tenure was cut too short, the Dubliner failed to win the big matches at crucial times. Steve Staunton’s reign was simply disastrous, with the former Liverpool defender completely out of his depth as manager of the national side.

Trapattoni was the right man at the right time, that stayed for one campaign too many, and had lost the ability to get that bit extra from his players by the time Euro 2012 came around, to the detriment of the team.

O’Neill too has not been without his critics. As recently as last Saturday, when Ireland were comprehensively beaten by Belgium,  people were questioning the validity of the FAI offering the Derry man a contract extension. But he, like his players, silenced his critics.

At times it can be difficult to tell which Ireland team will show up, the performance before and after scoring against Sweden being a prime example. Consistency will be key for Ireland entering the qualifiers, but we can look forward to the next two years with hope and as a football fan that is all you want. Belief.

France v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Lyon Thibault Camus Thibault Camus

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‘Jeff Hendrick got a dead leg and continued on throughout the whole game’

Coleman: France’s extra 3 days’ rest a factor in Ireland loss

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