Irish media heap scorn on meagre win in San Marino

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish media on Thursday bemoaned the national team’s last-gasp 2-1 victory over San Marino, heaping blame on manager Steve Staunton and renewing calls for him to resign just over a year into the job.

John O'Shea (L) is tackled by San Marino's Nicola Albani during their Euro Group D Euro 2008 qualifying in Serravalle, San Marino February 7, 2007. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

“Minnows 1, Muppets 2”, read one headline following the Euro 2008 Group D qualifier in Serravalle on Wednesday.

“Staunton finds new level of ineptitude”, read another, recalling Ireland’s humiliating 5-2 defeat by Cyprus last October when the media also rallied around to call for the manager’s head.

With Wednesday’s win, Ireland moved into third place in Group D behind Germany and Czech Republic but are still three points behind the leaders who both have a game in hand.

The result, against one of the world’s smallest nations, was only assured in the fifth minute of injury time by a Stephen Ireland goal.

“Ireland saves Ireland”, wrote tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, generally praising the Manchester City midfielder’s play throughout, though noting that their 195th-world ranked opponents had conceded 25 goals in their previous three Group D matches.

Wrath and scorn were reserved for Staunton, who assumed the manager’s mantle in January 2006 when he was Ireland’s most capped player but had little in the way of coaching experience.

“Hangs by a thread” - “On life support” - “Seconds from the axe” were how columnists from the Irish Times, Irish Examiner and Irish Sun described Staunton’s job prospects following the team’s “shambolic” play.

“Our uselessness very nearly led to one of the most famous sporting nights in the history of the most serene Republic of San Marino, and bearing in mind it was founded in AD 301 that’s a lot of sporting nights,” said the Irish Times.

Following the match Staunton told reporters he would remain head coach, and that the team, despite playing poorly, had shown fighting spirit.

“We controlled the game from start to finish,” Staunton was quoted as saying in the Irish Times. “We’re grateful for the three points.”