By Diarmaid Doherty
Eamon Dunphy has moved to defend his view that Seamus Coleman should not be burdened with the role of captain of the Republic of Ireland.
And he insisted the Killybegs man - by his own standards - didn’t have a great European Championships for Ireland.
Dunphy came in for some scathing criticism on social media this week after he questioned the decision to give Coleman the captain’s armband for Monday night’s World Cup qualifier in Serbia.
Speaking on the RTE panel prior to kick off, the controversial pundit said Coleman didn’t look comfortable with the responsibility of the captaincy during the Euros. He also wondered if Coleman was a natural leader.
The comments prompted plenty of reaction on social media with angry fans rounding on the pundit.
In an exclusive interview with the Donegal Democrat this week, Dunphy said he didn’t care too much about the criticism he had received on social media - describing the media platform as an ‘eejit’s paradise’.
However, he said his comments should be considered in the context they were made. He said Coleman hasn’t been in good form for club and country since last year because of various injuries, and giving him the captain’s role at this time might not necessarily be the right thing.
“What happened was that Didi (Hamann), Liam (Brady) and myself were discussing the Euros and I said I thought he (Coleman) didn’t have a good European Championships by his standards,” Dunphy said.
“I thought he had looked a bit inhibited. We were wondering about the captaincy and I was asked if I thought the captain’s role suited him with Ireland.”
He added: “Seamus Coleman is a great player, a conscientious player. I love him, but sometimes being captain doesn’t suit every player.”
Coleman had come in for special praise during the summer for the way he appeared to embrace the captain’s role in France in the games against Italy and France.
He retained the captain’s armband for Monday night’s 2-2 draw in Serbia, despite regular captain, John O’Shea’s inclusion in defence.
“In my honest opinion, I think John O’Shea is a very experienced player and I would not have taken the captaincy from John,” Dunphy said.
During the discussion on RTE, Dunphy suggested Robbie Brady as someone who could captain Ireland, but said the manager was closer to the camp than anyone, and therefore it was his decision.
Dunphy, however, told the Democrat that if he was to give the captaincy to anyone other than O’Shea, Coleman would be among his choices.
“He’s a terrific player, a terrific young man and I am a huge fan,” he said.
Coleman’s appearance at right back on Monday night came after he’d been a major doubt for the game because of an ankle injury. He hasn’t played this season for Everton and Dunphy said he was surprised the player’s new manager at Goodison Park, Ronald Koeman, allowed him to play.
The RTE pundit pointed to Coleman’s performance on Monday night to back up his point about the player’s current level of fitness.
“I wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t storming forward too much in the first half,” he said.
“He hasn’t played this year in the Premier League.”
He said the defender was also hampered by injury last year, which didn’t help him at the Euros.
“I would say that if you set very high standards as a player, you will be judged by those high standards,” he said.
“I wouldn’t call what I said ‘criticism’, it was more speculative conversation.”
He added: “Seamus Coleman is one of the best players ever to pull on a green shirt. I hope he goes on to have a good season and hopefully he stays fit and well.”