Teammate’s Irankunda ‘Mad Monday’ gag as silver lining to Olyroos snub becomes clear

Stefan Mauk joked about Nestory Irankunda’s contribution to Adelaide United’s ‘Mad Monday’ plans, while he used Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to explain the Bayern Munich-bound sensation’s role in the team heading into what could the teenager’s final game at Coopers Stadium.

Irankunda will leave Adelaide for Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern at the end of the season and unless the Reds sneak into the finals and progress deep, Friday night’s showdown with Macarthur FC will be the 18-year-old’s farewell in South Australia.

The history-making forward became the youngest player to score an Isuzu UTE A-League hat-trick in Round 22, and after following that up with a pair of assists over the weekend, he dominated Mauk’s press conference on Tuesday.

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“I was captain when he first came through so I tried to help him as much as possible,” said Mauk, who returned to Adelaide in January after a couple of years away in Japan.

“Being away for a couple years and came back, and maybe he liked a familiar face.

“I’m playing on the right side and close to him, so I guess we can connect quite well. I’ll do the defensive side of things for him because I know he won’t get back. It just means he has to produce when he goes forward and he has been doing that.

“I think he’s sometimes (misunderstood) and sometimes his emotions get the better of him. But we have to remember he is a young kid who has had the weight of Australian football on his shoulders for the last two or three years.

“He is going to have ups and downs but he is coming good at the right time of the season.”

Mauk was asked about Irankunda’s style of football, with less of an impact on defending and tracking back, and it’s impact on the Adelaide team.

The 2022 A-Leagues All Stars’ output in the attacking third outweighs his defensive responsibilities or lack thereof, according to Mauk.

“It’s a tough one I think because as a playing group you want to set your standards and you want to have those non-negotiable things, whether it’s on or off the field. Everybody needs to buy into it, including Nestor,” he explained.

“We have an internal fine system which I guess he’s contributed a lot towards so he will be paying for the Mad Monday, which is good for the rest of us. Maybe the media can come down too.

“We expect him, that if he isn’t going to defend as much, that going forward he has to produce. That’s the same anywhere in the world. I’m not comparing him to Mbappe, Messi or Neymar but the best players in those teams, if they’re not going to track back as often as the other players, they have to produce and the last couple of games he’s done that.

“I just kind of said to him let us know when you’re not coming back so at least we can get the cover over there. The other players have probably realised he isn’t going to come back, we need to make sure we do the defensive things for him because he can do things like he did on the weekend with a couple of assists.”

The subject of Irankunda and the Olyroos was also discussed.

Irankunda was overlooked for this month’s AFC Under-23 Asian Cup in Qatar due to “wellbeing” factors, according to Olyroos head coach Tony Vidmar.

Asked if Irankunda had a chip on his shoulder after beng left out, Mauk told reporters: “From a personal point of view, I’m glad he is not going because it means we get to see him at Coopers Stadium on Friday night and the last three games for Adelaide.

“As players, sometimes you need to use external factors to get you motivated. Use that as fire to make you play better. Whether he’s used that or not but it’s not the first time he won’t make a squad in his career. He needs to be used to that.”