FORMER Celtic star John Hartson has claimed Ireland would not beat his native Wales even if they had Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in charge.
Speaking at an event in Dublin to mark the return of Setanta Ireland’s Premier League coverage, on which he is a pundit, the patriotic Welshman was in confident mood.
Wales have enjoyed a rise up the FIFA World Rankings amid a string of fine results in 2015, and they’ve been pitted with Ireland for next year’s World Cup 2018 qualifiers.
Hartson is not threatened by Ireland’s presence in their group though, as he’s sure Real Madrid star Gareth Bale will continue to carry Wales amid a potentially golden era.
"We'd beat Ireland all day long," said Hartson. "I don't care if it was Jose Mourinho in charge [of Ireland]. I don't think it's really got anything to do with the manager. You're not blessed with great talented individuals.
"We've got a great group and then you throw Gareth Bale in there, the most expensive player in the world and an absolutely phenomenal talent.
"It's not a criticism of Ireland. Ten years ago, I'd have said that Ireland would thump us, but right now we're in the ascendancy.
#WC2018 qualifiers draw... Group D: Wales Austria Serbia REPUBLIC OF IRELAND Moldova Georgia
— Irish Post Sport (@IrishPostSport) July 25, 2015
"I've played with a lot of the Ireland players and played under Martin [O’Neill] for five years and just think at this moment they're going through a difficult period.
"When you had Roy Keane and the players walked out alongside him, they grew 10ft because they knew they had a leader and that lifts other players. It's similar to what Gareth Bale is doing now."
Ireland look likely to miss out on next summer’s Euro 2016 tournament in France after falling behind Scotland, Poland and Germany in their qualifying group.
Hartson accepts that Martin O’Neill’s men were drawn into a difficult table, but he is of the belief that Ireland simply do not have a high standard of players to choose from right now.
He added: "Ireland do have a tough Euros group, let's not beat around the bush. But Robbie Keane is your star man and he's 35 and playing in America. You've got nothing coming through behind.
"You've got Shane Long, he's in and out and doesn't hold down a position at Southampton.
“Jon Walters. What's his best position? He's a 100 per cent player, he'll give you everything, but is he going to go past players? Aiden McGeady? I've played with Aiden. Wonderful ability, a genius at times that can frustrate you."