INSIDE RIGHT: Ireland in good shape to make Euro finals
AFTER IRELAND'S first two qualification games for Euro 2012 'Inside Right' would surmise that they look to be in reasonable shape to take a long overdue place at the finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Satisfactory seems to be the buzz word surrounding their performances to date as they try to reach their first European Championship finals since 1988 - and as always with Ireland there's still plenty to work on.
We'll start with the positive. The main plus point is that we have six points, and after coming away from Armenia with the full complement we could afford ourselves a puffing out of the cheeks and a huge sigh of relief. As everyone knows only too well it's matches like these that we've slipped up in in the past and definitely the result was everything and performance was secondary in this case.
Another massive plus from the opening salvos was the outstanding performances by Kevin Doyle in both games. The Wexford man is a fan's dream - he works tirelessly for the cause and if he can add one or two more goals to his game he'll be the perfect forward. Lask week's sublime strike against Andorra will do for starters and if Doyle and Robbie Keane can get maybe ten goals between them during the campaign we could be well on our way to qualifying.
Now for the negative. 'Inside Right' can understand Trapattoni's insistence on bypassing midfield when you're facing better sides like Russia and Slovakia but against teams like Andorra we should be passing them into submission. You just have to look at Robbie Keane's goal to see what we're capable of when we do try to play a bit of freeflowing football. Admittedly he may have been half a yard offside when he slid the ball into the net but the move was the best we've put together in the two games and illustrated what we can do with the ball passed to feet.
Players like Paul Green, Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews, when he returns, might not be the most technically gifted about, but they have more than enough skill to outplay and pick out killer passes against minnows like Andorra.
Of course we have to be happy to have amassed six points but Slovakia have to be even more pleased with their return having chalked up a home win against Macedonia and beaten Russia on their travels.
Obviously after the next two matches in October the picture will be a lot clearer as to what our chances of qualification are.
The two games in five days at home to Russia and away to Slovakia could pretty much decide our fate. Four points from those matches should see us push on and would give us a fantastic chance of topping the group.
If the Irish players show the same level of ability and intensity as they did on that fateful night in Paris last November they're capable of beating Russia and Slovakia at the Aviva and picking up something away from home, so goal difference might not come into it.
However, it still would be nice to see the boys in green really cutting loose against Europe's lesser lights, like Andorra, Macedonia and even Armenia, particularly when we have them on our home patch.
That's surely not being too greedy now, is it?