After 20 years in the making – it’s a dull draw at Aviva Stadium


Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland welcomed their visitors, England, to a warm and sunny Dublin for the first time in 20 years. There was a lot of talk in the build up to this fixture regarding the last time the English supporters were in town. Fortunately, the atmosphere this time around in the stands was less volatile. The same could be said on the pitch, as both teams played out a dull scoreless draw that failed to thrill those in attendance at the Aviva Stadium.

The first half was a pretty drab affair but the Boys in Green were the first to go on the attack. Straight from the kick-off the Irish worked the ball into the box, with striker, David McGoldrick having an effort on goal deflected wide by an English defender. The game did not pick up again until the second quarter when Aiden McGeady whipped in a cross from the edge of the box towards McGoldrick, who just couldn’t connect his head to the ball correctly.

It was the Irish who dominated the second quarter of the game, with a few clear-cut chances to put them ahead. Daryl Murphy had two great chances to get on the score sheet. His first, after working his way into the box, he shot low and hard but his effort sailed past, not only England ‘keeper, Joe Hart, but also past the far upright. The second chance came from a Robbie Brady free kick. The whip in came in perfectly for the Ipswich Town striker but he couldn’t connect to it properly and his attempt went wide, not troubling the English defence.

England also had a few chances on goal. Their best effort coming just before half time as Adam Lallana worked his way to the edge of the box. His long-range effort just went over a stretching Kieren Westwood and the crossbar.

The game came to life in the second half and it was England who had the first real attempt at goal. A mistake by defender Marc Wilson gifted Jordan Henderson the ball. The midfielder then laid it off to Wayne Rooney. However, the captain couldn’t get the proper first touch and balled rolled toward a relieved Westwood. A lucky escape for the Irish.

There were numerous chances for both teams throughout the half. Brady troubled Hart with a free kick from the edge of the box. The Manchester City ‘keeper wasn’t able to collect the ball. Instead, it bounced off his chest and out for an Irish corner. Rooney also had a half chance with a free kick on the edge of the area. The captain’s effort, however, was caught by Westwood.

England’s best effort was left to substitute, Andros Townsend. The Spurs man cracked the ball with force just outside of the area. His shot troubled substitute keeper Shay Given, who could only parry the effort.

Harry Arter, making his senior international debut as a substitute, also had a chance on goal. After working the ball forward, the midfielder tried an effort on goal rather then lay the ball to a teammate. His effort didn’t trouble Hart as it flew across the box and past the goal.

The game fizzled out towards the end, apart from a few lame efforts from Ross Barkley, which didn’t trouble the Irish defence. It was to end as yet another draw between these sides, the eighth in total.

Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill said the game was good preparation ahead of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland. “It was exactly what we needed. I thought in the last fifteen minutes we were pretty tired looking. We started off brightly in the game and maybe we could have scored a couple of goals. We certainly had a couple of decent chances. Overall, it was good for us and from a physical viewpoint, it couldn’t have been better timed,” said the Irish manager.

O’Neill also suggested the game allowed him to experiment and bring in new faces. “I think that what you do, is you ask the players to give you some problems to try and solve between now and Saturday. Some new faces as well, with Daryl Murphy coming in and eventually, Harry Arter getting on the field of play. So just overall, players to go and try and perform because it is their last opportunity to do so. I think it was a very decent response,” said O’Neill.

Regarding his thoughts on next week’s starting eleven against Scotland, the manager refused to give any details on who might start. Talking about next week’s fixture, O’Neill said, “I will see how the player’s came out of the game physically and certainly during the course of the week we will try and step up training. I was hoping at one stage that I could have got Wes Hoolahan on the field. He has played a number of games and he came late into the squad because he was getting some tests done. While, I’m sure it would have been nice for him to play the last twenty odd minutes, we had run out of substitutes.”

England manager, Roy Hodgson, shared O’Neill’s sentiments that the game was a warm up ahead of the next week’s qualifiers. “I think it was a game both teams needed after the season ending for most of them a good couple of weeks ago or in some cases three weeks ago,” said the England manager.

Hodgson was delighted that the match passed off without incident and that. He also suggested that the Irish will be the happier of the two teams with the result. “The positives for me, were harder to find I think, than they would have been for Martin. Two obvious positives were, the spirit in which the game was played. Competitive, I think both teams were trying to win and the atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the sets of fans was a remarkable positive because it hasn’t always been that way,” said Hodgson.

Asked for a prediction for next week’s match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland, the English manager said, “I think it is going to be a really ding-dong battle next week. I think it is going to be very competitive, very exciting. Obviously, more exciting than today’s game because today’s game was only a friendly. In the game next Saturday, every time the ball is bouncing in your box or the Scottish box, Martin and his staff and Gordon and his staff are going to be really excited, as will the fans. The only prediction I can safely make is that it will be a very, very tight game, very fiercely contested and I don’t expect it to be a 5-4. I expect it more to be a 1-0 or a 2-1.”

The Republic of Ireland will take some positives looking ahead to a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland next Saturday as they defended well against an undefeated side in qualifiers, who have scored fifteen goals in five games. John O’Shea is the only injury doubt for the Boys in Green. The Sunderland defender has a problem with his calf but O’Neill is hopeful that he can shake it off in time for next week’s game.

Meanwhile, England will be hoping to continue their undefeated streak in Group E of Euro 2016 qualifiers, as they face second placed Slovenia, away, next Sunday.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Westwood (Given 60′), Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea (C) (McShane 71′), McCarthy (McClean 45′), Hendrick, Whelan (Arter 63′), McGeady, Brady, Murphy (Walters 55′), McGoldrick (Long 45′)

Substitutes: Forde, Randolph, Keogh, Christie, Pearce, Ward, Quinn, Meyler, Hoolahan

ENGLAND: Hart, Jones, Bertrand, Henderson, Cahill (Jagielka 73′), Smalling, Wilshere (Barkley 65′), Milner, Sterling (Townsend 65′), Rooney (C) (Vardy 73′), Lallana (Walcott 82′)

Substitutes: Green, Heaton, Gibbs, Delph, Austin, Cleverley, Clyne

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Northern Ireland)


Inferior Ireland suffer defeat in intense Scottish fixture


Aiden McGeady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

It was not the homecoming Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill expected as his side lost 1-0 to Scotland at Celtic Park in what was a fiery encounter. A beautiful curled shot from Shaun Maloney separated the sides in this crucial Euro 2016 qualifier. The former Celtic manager and his current side will be disappointed to drop points in this tie but over the ninety minutes the home side proved why they deserved all three points.

A short corner from Maloney and a poor defensive effort from the Irish let him drift into the box and complete a beautiful one-two with Scott Brown, which included a fine back heel pass from the Scottish captain, and the Wigan Athletic midfielder finished off the move with a well placed shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

McGeady intimidated at former home

The pre-match build-up was marred by some controversies including former Scottish international Gordon McQueen calling for the home fans to give Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy a “horrible” reception. With the latter injured, it was left to McGeady to face the home reception. It didn’t take long for the home crowd to show their displeasure at the former Celtic player.

McGeady looked shaky at times as if overawed by the occasion. Booked early on the game for a challenge from behind on Steven Fletcher, McGeady gave away possession on a few occasions and was close to getting booked for a second time towards the end of the match for dissent when he crept close to a Scottish free kick.

He did show some good passages of play in the early part of the second half. The pick of the bunch being a shot at the edge of the box. The ball looked as if it was heading for the bottom right hand corner but was saved by Scottish keeper David Marshall.

Good Scottish offence

The Scottish started the game at full pace, attacking the Irish defence with any chance they got. They almost took an early lead when Maloney sent a cross into the box and was met by Fletcher. The Sunderland forward had an free header but his effort went over the bar.

The Scots also had some luck. They could have gone down to 10 men before half time when Grant Hanley, already booked for a tackle on Shane Long, which was possibly a red card, looked to have elbowed Irish goalkeeper David Forde. However, he was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee.

The Irish started the second half with a bit more pace and swagger about them. They attacked the Scottish goal on numerous occasion, however, Marshall was on form and wasn’t to be denied a clean sheet.

The best effort from the Irish was from a James McClean corner that was met by the head of Jon Walters. The Stoke man’s header met the head of Long, whose effort at goal was stopped by Marshall again after the ball went straight into his hands, killing the attack.

The Scots also went on the attack and were close to going ahead when Steven Naismith was allowed to work the ball into the box and pass to Chris Martin. The Derby County striker’s shot just went wide of the goal.

Martin’s club teammate, Jeff Hendrick was lucky not to be sent off after a silly push on Naismith. The free kick was met by the head of Walters and crashed off the crossbar and out. The resulting corner was the what killed the game. The Irish defence was caught napping and allowed Maloney and Brown the space to pull off a great one-two and for Maloney to cap it off with a wonderful goal.

Robbie Keane, dropped from the starting eleven was brought on after the goal to try and make an impact on the game but it led to nothing as Scotland got a vital three points and place themselves in third place in Group D, one place ahead of the Irish.

O’Neill disappointed but backs players

Speaking after the game, the Irish manager discussed his disappointed about the score line but seemed to be upbeat about his team’s overall performance. “For the away side, I thought we were dealing with things reasonably well and the goal’s naturally a disappointment to us but it’s far from failure,” said O’Neill.

Discussing the goal, O’Neill conceded that his side allowed the home side have too much time on the ball rather than closing them down. “It wasn’t a case were they [Scotland] acted very, very quickly. There were three, four, five, six seconds there and we should have seen the danger. They had two men out for it and naturally, we should have had two, we did eventually but the third man was always a spare for them and we didn’t deal with that situation,” said the manager.

With seven points on the board from a possible twelve, the Republic of Ireland can say they are still in the mix for one of the top 3 places. However, the squad will be bitterly disappointed that they could not build on their performance from Gelsenkirchen last month and claim at least another point away from home, in what would have been a certain boost to morale ahead of the next competitive fixture against group leaders Poland in the Aviva Stadium next March.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea (C), Keogh, Ward, McGeady, Hendrick (Keane 78′), Gibson (Quinn 68′), McClean, Long (Brady 68′), Walters

Substitutes: Randolph, Given, Clark, Christie, Meyler, Pilkington, McGoldrick, Pearce, Murphy
Yellow Cards: McGeady (15′), Hendrick (30′), Coleman (59′),Quinn (90′),

SCOTLAND: Marshall, Whittaker, R.Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Maloney, Mulgrew, Brown (C), S.Fletcher (C.Martin 56′), Naismith, Anya (D.Fletcher 88′)

Substitutes: Gordon, Gilks, Berra, Dorrans, Bannan, Greer, Burke, Russell, May, C.Martin
Goals: Maloney (75′)
Yellow Cards: Hanley (12′), Robertson (82′)

Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia)

Man of the Match: Jon Walters

Republic of Ireland run riot in the Aviva


Republic of IrelandOriginal article appears on Pundit Arena.

It was over before it began with the Republic of Ireland tearing apart Gibraltar 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium. It was a good days work for Robbie Keane in particular. The evergreen captain was on fine form as he scored a hat trick in just 18 minutes against the minnows. Goals from James McClean, Wes Hoolahan and a bizarre own goal from Gibraltar keeper, Jordan Perez sealed the victory for the Irish.

Manager Martin O’Neill, had warned against complacency in the build up to this game and his team didn’t disappoint in the opening exchanges with the Irish racking up 50 passes in just under five minutes. The Irish piled the pressure on the Gibraltar defence and they were rewarded for their positive start on the sixth minute when Man of the Match, Wes Hoolahan hit a long ball to Aiden McGeady on the edge of the right side of the box. The Everton winger laid it to Keane who had no problem putting the ball in the back of the net and starting off the evening’s proceedings.

Hoolahan was involved again in the build up to the second and third goal to set up Keane to earn his 64th and 65th goals respectively. The Norwich City man took a lofted pass on to his chest before passing the ball through for Keane’s run, who slotted home past Perez. Minutes later, Perez clattered into Hoolahan after failing to clear a shot efficiently. Keane stepped up and the hat trick was complete.

With those three goals, Keane now becomes the top scorer in European Championship qualifying history at 21 goals and now stands 12th in the overall international scorers list on 65 goals with Didier Drogba.

Hoolahan wasn’t to be denied a goal though after a wonderful performance. On the 56th minute, Keane laid the ball into his path. After skipping through an awful defence, he capped off the move with an easy, low shot to the near post that went past Perez.

O’Neill was happy with Hoolahan’s contribution in the game. “Wes did very, very well. Wes here at the Aviva has never failed to play well and he is good, particularly in a night like this here when we are looking for that little bit of craft to break defences down,” said the Irish manager.

The Gibraltar keeper, Perez, was already having a bad day before a sensational own goal added salt to the wound. Robbie Keane’s attempted chip was batted away by the keeper with the ball landing to McGeady. The midfielder’s shot bounced back from defender on the line with the ball. The ball landed at the feet of Perez, who, one can only presume, tried to clear the ball but instead hoofed it into his own net. I had to look around and make sure I was at the Aviva and not at home playing a game of FIFA.

After conceding two more goals, McClean’s second of the night and Hoolahan’s goal, Perez was hauled off by manager Allen Bula. The entire crowd at the Aviva were on its feet as the hapless keeper made his way off.

The Irish will unquestionably be satisfied with this win ahead of their visit to Germany on Tuesday night. However, all eyes will now be on that trip. There were many positives in the game but there were also glimpses in the game that showed the home side lacking concentration especially in the latter part of the game when Gibraltar were unlucky to at least come away from this game with a goal. Do this against the Germans and it could be the Irish that end up on the wrong side of a mauling.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Ward (Brady 69’), Wilson, O’Shea, Meyler, McGeady, Hendrick, Gibson, McClean, Hoolahan (Doyle 63’), Keane (C) (Murphy 63’)

Substitutes: Elliot, Westwood, Clark, Whelan, Long, Pilkington, Stokes, Quinn, Walters
Goals: Keane (6’, 14’, 18’), McClean (46’, 53’), Perez OG (52’), Hoolahan (56’)

GIBRALTAR: J.Perez (Robba 59’), Wiseman, R.Casciaro, R.Chipolina (C) (Santos 57’), J.Chipolina, Payas, B.Perez, Bado (Guilling 45’), Walker, Gosling, L.Casciaro

Substitutes: Coleing, Artell, K.Casciaro, Lopez, Sergeant, Priestley, Bosio, Garcia, Hernandez

Referee: Leontios Trattou (Cyprus)

Man of the Match: Wes Hoolahan


Comfortable victory for Ireland as focus shifts towards Georgia


Republic of Ireland team celebrateOriginal article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland started the new season on the right foot as they defeated Oman 2-0 in the final friendly game ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia. However, Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill will be questioning why his squad could not put away more of the chances that were handed to his side throughout the 90 minutes.

Wednesday night saw a weakened starting XI with some of the key members of the squad left on the bench ahead of the test that awaits them in Tbilisi this weekend. However, there was a return for Everton’s Darron Gibson made a return to Aviva after being out of the squad for the last 10 months due to a mixture of injury and being disheartened by former manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

The ‘Boys in Green’ started brightly in the opening exchanges as they pressed forward in search of an early goal. However, the Oman defence packed into the box and swatted off any attack on their goal. The Irish then drifted off as Oman went on the attack. An attempted pass by Stephen Quinn was blocked by referee, Illias Spathas, and Raed Saleh picked up the loose ball and paced down the wing and onto the edge of the box. He laid the ball off to Mohammed Al Siyabi, who struck it poorly and went wide of the returning Shay Given.

The first half was marred by some sloppy play by the Irish including a back pass by Robbie Brady to Given that went out of play for a corner. There were plenty of mistimed passes made by the Irish that would have gone punished if against sterner opponents, something that O’Neill must work on ahead of the forthcoming fixtures.

However, the Republic’s game improved slightly after the 19th minute when Brady whipped in a corner that was met by Kevin Doyle. His header sailed passed Wigan Athletic keeper Ali Al Habsi and into the back of the net. The Crystal Palace man marked his 60th game in the green jersey with his 14th international goal.

There were a few more chances in between but nothing could hit the target. The best chance to put the Irish further ahead, lay to David Meyler after Brady’s cross was punched away by Al Habsi and landed at the Hull City man’s feet. His chip bounced off the upright and back into play but was cleared by the Oman defence.

The second half started much like the first ended. However, the pace picked up when the trio of Robbie Keane, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady came on in the 58th minute and gave the Irish the boost it needed. McGeady had a great opportunity to double the Irish lead, 20 minutes into the second period, but the Everton midfielder’s attempt was cleared off the line by Mohammed Al Musalami.

The attacks didn’t stop and the Irish piled on the pressure but the finishing left a lot to be desired. However, on the 81st minute, Brady’s corner was met by captain of the night, Richard Keogh, his slight tap landed to Alex Pearce and the Reading man slotted home a soft shot past Oman’s keeper.

Oman had a few chances as well but their best effort was a long through ball by Hussain Al Hadhri to Saad Al Mukhaini, which was collected by substitute keeper Rob Elliot, who replaced Given for the second half.

After the game, O’Neill commented on the performance and was happy with the win for his squad. “We needed the game and it was nice to win. We would have liked to been further ahead by half time and got the second goal earlier but we played some nice football. My concern would be that when we made a few good passes but it ended with the ball going backwards,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill also comment on the team he had for Sunday with Joey O’Brien and now, James McClean both ruled out of the clash with Georgia through injury. “I was concerned that Joey O’Brien had to go and James McClean is out now too. My concern with James is that he has not had enough game time at Wigan. I want to give him a chance to get ready for later games and not worsen the injury.”

The Ireland manager also admitted he was looking forward to the campaign and mentioned that confidence was high in the camp. “It’s a long road ahead,” claimed O’Neill, “However, we will be ready for it. We won the game tonight and took confidence from it. There was no confidence lost during the summer games. We have only one thing in mind and that is to prepare as best as possible for Sunday.”

With the 4 games before the end of the year, 3 of them away including a trip to World Cup winners Germany, O’Neill and Keane will be happy with tonight’s result but know that there will need to be some improvements ahead of Sunday evening’s game against the Georgians.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Elliot 46’), Meyler (Murphy 85’), Keogh (C), Pearce, Ward, Pilkington (McGeady 58’), Gibson (Whelan 69’), Quinn, Brady, Hoolahan (Keane 58’), Doyle (Long 58’).
Substitutes: Forde, Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea, Stokes.
Goals: Doyle 19’, Pearce 81’
Yellow Cards: Gibson 68’

OMAN: Al Habsi (C), S Al Mukhani, A Al Mukhani, Al Ghailani (Al Busaidi 58’), Al Owaisi, Al Musalani, Al Muhaijri (Al Jabri 58’), Al Farsi (Al Muqbali 80’), Saleh (Al Mashari 86’), Al Siyani, Hardan (Al Qasmi 58’)
Substitutes: Al Rushidi, Al Zaabi, Al Nahar, Al Jalbobi, Al Hadhri, Al Ihsi, Almashari.

Referee: Illias Spathas (Greece)

Man of the Match: David Meyler