Ireland need to focus on winning mentality

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Aiden McGeady

Writing in his pre-match notes, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill was clear that despite the numerous absentees from the Austrian squad that this match was going to be tough. The manager was also cooling the talk in the build-up to the match that a win in this game could allow the start of talk of booking the flight to Russia. “We have reached the half-way stage in our Group, so there are still a lot of points to play for, as you would expect. It has been a tough road so far and that will remain so until the last qualifying game,” said O’Neill.

Surely even the Irish manager didn’t expect his team to perform so poorly for most of the game against a weakened side. The Boys in Green started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jonathan Walters the lone striker. The layout of the team was a head-scratcher and questions will be asked of why O’Neill decided to start with two defending midfielders rather than go out with a more attacking intent.

The visitors, with their depleted side, emphasised an attacking approach lining out with a 4-3-3 formation and hoping to pile on the pressure on the home side. They did just that. The Irish were hopeless for the first half. Despite a better passing accuracy than the Austrians, the Irish just could not move the ball about and did not seem up for the match as a whole. Robbie Brady seemed disinterested and Shane Duffy unable to connect a pass from out of the back.

The home side’s formation choice didn’t last and was switched to a 4-4-2 with McClean joining Walters up front. This gave the Austrian defence a bit of trouble but the Irish passing or the lack thereof, gave little worry to the Austrians and it wasn’t until the last quarter of the game did the Irish turn up the attacking pressure on their visitors. It did pay off with five minutes to go as Walters gave it is all to beat a defender from a Brady long ball and slotted it into the bottom right hand of the goal. The Irish could and probably should have won it from there. Less than two minutes later, Shane Duffy’s head connected with the ball and it ended up in the back of the net. However, it was ruled a foul on an Austrian defender who ended up in the bottom of the net along with the ball. It was big call and the Irish will be frustrated by the decision. There was also another big decision with a potential penalty after it seemed as if Walters was tripped in the box by a defender. It was a soft challenge but it could have easily been ruled as a penalty any other day.

A real question needs to be asked though. After such a big build up to the game and the hope of three important points in the bag, do the Republic of Ireland have a problem with mentality when labeled as favourites? One only has to draw on the memories of the infamous 0-0 draw away to Liechtenstein over 20 years ago. Ireland was ninth in the world at the time and they were expected to stroll to an easy win against the minnows. Yet they left the small Central European nation with a point, something which was a major set back in the qualifiers for Euro ’96 which we ultimately did not qualify for.

However, fans and journalists alike need to look at the whole picture. The season has just ended with many of the players focused on the survival of relegation or promotion pushes. I can appreciate their willingness to focus on club careers. At the end of the day it is, it is the clubs who pay big money to ensure the players perform to the best of their ability week in and week out. However, you would like to see the players cap off their season with a strong performance for their International side especially after such a strong start to the group. Austria was there for the taking even missing defender Andreas Ulmer who decided to get married instead of helping his nation to a possible victory. That was the kind of thing Ireland should have jumped upon and ensured a strong narrative in the group moving towards the latter stages of qualifying.

An old Roy Keane quote came to mind after the Republic’s controversial loss to France in the 2010 World Cup playoff. “France were there for the taking and Ireland didn’t do it. Same old story,” said Keane, then manager of Ipswich Town. “I’d focus on why they didn’t clear it. I’d be more annoyed with my defenders and my goalkeeper than Thierry Henry. How can you let the ball bounce in your six-yard box? How can you let Thierry Henry get goal-side of you? If the ball goes into the six-yard box, where the hell is my goalkeeper?” I wonder if this will be ringing in Keane’s mind watching back on the Austrian goal. A strike from Martin Hinteregger after a ball from a David Alaba corner.

In his post-match comments, O’Neill made light to the fact that the corner was a result of a move that started from an Austrian handball, Dragović the culprit. While almost everyone in the Aviva would agree that it was a handball by the defender. Surely, the Irish should have cleared the ball or have done a better job at marking during an attacking set piece? I am sure the management will, of course, look at this behind closed doors and will analyse the goal in the aftermath of the game but it is a tad egregious to blame the refereeing for the goal, despite the referee having a poor game.

However, there were some standout players in the match for the home side. Both Jonathan Walters and James McClean paced around the pitch looking for the right pass or attempting to get into some space to create a movement. The Stoke City man, in particular, was allowed little opportunity to create much for most of the game, being marked tightly by Bayer Leverkusen’s Aleksandar Dragović. McClean also had a moment to equalise the game with ten minutes remaining but hit the ball first time and striking it high and wide.

Kevin Long also had a fine first start in central defence and he will be hoping to cause a selection headache for his manager when selecting the sides for the next set of games in September. O’Neill was impressed with the former Cork City player’s handling of the pressure of being selected for such an important fixture.

The result will no doubt be welcomed by the Serbians, who kick-off later in evening against Wales, who themselves desperately need a result to keep their World Cup dreams alive ahead of a home fixture against the Austrians in September.

The Irish will now be keeping a close eye on the fixture this evening with O’Neill, Keane and the rest of the Irish management going back to the drawing board in the morning to study what Ireland need to fix ahead of the last four remaining fixtures of this qualifying stage. A little bit of encouragement and belief that this squad can qualify for its first World Cup in 16 years will no doubt help but as the manager suggested in his pre-match notes there a long road ahead with points to be won and lost by all the sides in this group. Hopefully, for Ireland’s sake and those who follow the Boys in Green, there is more won than lost.

REP. OF IRELAND: Randolph, Christie, Long, Duffy, Ward (Murphy 55′), Brady, Whelan (C) (McGeady 77′), Hendrick, Arter (Hoolahan 71′), McClean, Walters

Substitutes: Westwood, Doyle, Pearce, O’Shea, Keogh, O’Kane, Horgan, Hourihane, Hayes
Goals: Walters (85′)
Yellow Cards: Brady (29′), Christie (32′)

Austria: Lindner, Lainer, Dragović, Prödl, Hinteregger, Baumgartlinger, Junuzović (Grillitsch 79′), Alaba, Lazaro, Burgstaller (Harnik 75′), Kainz (Gregoritsch 90′)

Substitutes: Bachmann, Kuster, Wimmer, Laimer, Stangl, Schaub, Klein, Danso, Alar
Goals: Hinteregger (31′)

Referee: David Fernández Borbalan (ESP)

 

Robbie Seals His Goodbye With A Goal

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Robbie Keane

It was the night that the Republic of Ireland said goodbye to one of its true legends. After 146 caps and 68 goals for his country, Robbie Keane wore the famous green jersey for the last time. Ireland’s record goalscorer came into this match needing a single goal to equal Gerd Müller’s tally in the all-time international goalscorer list. 4 goals and he would have broken the top 10. One goal was all that was needed as the Irish captain sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was all that the crowd, press, the management and Keane himself wanted – the perfect send off.

The Irish captain was knocking on the door in the early stages of the game and came close a couple of times. The best of the bunch being a chip over Oman goalkeeper, Faiz Al Rushaidi after a one-on-one. However, the effort just went inches over the bar. It would have been the perfect goal and send off for the Keane. However, he wasn’t to be denied. Already a goal up after a splendid Robbie Brady free-kick in the seventh minute, Keane scored with a nice little volley after lifting the ball over defender Mabrook with his right foot and without taking his eyes off the ball, he connected again with his right foot and there was nothing Al Rushaidi could do as the back hit the back of the net.

Robbie Brady was again getting in on the action and was instrumental in the third goal. His cross in from the left met the head of Walters and it sailed again into the back of the net. The Boys in Green were now in flight mode against their Asian opponents.

Half times saw a number of changes for the home side including Darren Randolph replacing Kieran Westwood between the sticks. A debut cap is still on hold for Dundalk’s Gary Rogers. It could be suggested that tonight’s friendly against such weakened opposition, it would have been ideal for O’Neill to give the keeper some invaluable international experience.

The second half much like the rest of the first half after the third goal went in, was the Irish controlling the game in cruise control. Oman never looked like threatening the Irish goal and the Irish fans kept themselves entertained throughout the rest of the match by recreating Iceland’s now famous “Viking Thunder Clap” and belting out “Oh-Ah Paul McGrath” when the man himself appeared on the big screens in the stadium.

However, the best roar of the night was saved for the man of the hour as Robbie Keane was replaced before the hour mark. All 27,0000 or so who came to wave him off, gave him a standing ovation with a chorus of “Keano!” added in for good measure. It was truly the end of one of the most spectacular international careers in Irish footballing history. The emotion did not override the Tallaght man as he walked off the pitch realising this was the last time he would wear the green shirt of Ireland.

Not long after Keane’s departure, Ireland wrapped up the goals with Jon Walters getting his second of the game. The Stoke forward dribbled past the Oman keeper. His shot from a tight angle went between a defender’s legs before rolling into the net. It was a nice finish to the goal and will no doubt boost Walters confidence going into the game next week against Serbia.

At the final whistle, Keane gave a farewell speech to crowd thanking them for their support throughout the years. Undoubtedly, his spotlight was stolen, all but temporarily, by his youngest son, Hudson. Keane Jr. had the crowd in the palm of his hands as he tried to steal the microphone from his Dad. A chorus of boos rained down as Hudson was removed so the man of the hour could keep talking to his audience.

Keane walked down the tunnel, passing through a guard of honour of his now former teammates. Robbie showed no emotion throughout, admitting at the press conference after that it will probably take a few weeks for it to sink in that he is no longer a Republic of Ireland player.

He was grateful to manager, Martin O’Neill for giving him one last opportunity to pull on the jersey in front of the home crowd. O’Neill, in turn, was happy with the send off his captain received from the home crowd. He praised his international career and believed his goal scoring record won’t be broken for a long time.

The focus now shifts to the trip to Belgrade and the first of the 2018 World Cup qualifying games against Serbia. The manager and players alike will be in a buoyant mood ahead of Monday. They are well aware that this will be a tough group and an away win will be a great start to a long campaign.

REP. OF IRELAND: Westwood (Randolph 45′), Christie, Wilson, Clark, Brady (Ward 45′), Quinn (O’Dowda 64′), Whelan (Hendrick 45′), Arter, Long (McClean 45′), Keane (C) (Hoolahan 57′), Walters

Substitutes: Rogers, Keogh, Murphy, Meyler, Pearce, McShane, O’Kane
Goals: Brady (7′), Keane (29′), Walters (33′, 62′)
Yellow Cards: Wilson (70′)

Oman: Al Rushaidi, Almukhaini, Al Muqbali (Aal Sbdulsalam 87′), Al Saadi, Al Mushaifri (Al Mukhain 45′), Bait, Al Khaldi, Mabrook, Al Malki (Al Shuabi 75′), Saleh, Al Shyadi

Substitutes: Al Rawahi, Al Habsi, E.M. Al Farsi, Al Maashari, Al Fazari, Al Busaidi, Al Jalaboubi, Al Yacqubi, Al Alwai, Al Ghassani, Al Amri, Alfarsi
Yellow Cards: Al Saadi (50′)

Referee: Demetries Masias (CYP)

Walters books Ireland’s place in France

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Republic of Ireland

Jonathan Walters booked the Republic of Ireland’s place at next summer’s European Championship in France with a fine display against a lacklustre Bosnian side in Dublin on Monday night. After a solid performance last week in Sarajevo, Martin O’Neill’s men that either a goalless draw or a win would seal their destiny. It was to be the Stoke man’s night as his two goals secured the plane tickets and consecutive appearances in the European Championship for the first time.

The Boys in Green were the dominant team in the first half. They looked comfortable on the ball and their passing was close to being perfect. The visitors on the other hand looked uncomfortable and at times it seemed as if they had trouble settling into the game.

The Irish showed some glimpses of class in the early stages of the half. Robbie Brady played a nice one-two with Wes Hoolahan on the left side of box. They managed to put the defence on the back foot but unfortunately, Asmir Begovic was on hand to prevent the ball returning to Hoolahan, who had some space to shoot. 

Martin O’Neill’s men were definitely up for it and they kept pouncing at the Bosnian defence, putting them under pressure and forcing mistakes. The Bosnian’s also showed they were no pushovers with some aggressive play within the half. Defender, Emir Spahic showed that his side was unwilling just to sit back throughout the 90 minutes. Half way through first 45 minutes, the Hamburg defender clattered into Jeff Hendrick to the floor. The referee had no problem reaching into his pocket and pulling out the first yellow card of the night.

Then the big talking point of the game happened. Daryl Murphy attempted to whip in a cross into the box. However, his effort was blocked by the hand of Erwin Zukanovic. Referee Bjorn Kulpers had no hesitation to point to the spot for a penalty. Walters stepped up confidently, sending former teammate, Begovic the wrong way and slotting the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

The Irish returned to the pitch for the second half and seemed to drop the pace initially. The visitors began to pile on some pressure in an attempt to make the tie all square. Bosnia also turned up the aggression as well. Sead Kolasinac seemed to strike defender Seamus Coleman in the face while walking away from a failed corner attempt. The referee missed the incident but gave a free kick nonetheless.

Spahic was also involved in some controversial incidents and the defender was lucky to still be on the pitch after some late challenges. Ireland were also lucky to have 11 men on the pitch after the final whistle. Substitute James McClean, was booked not long after coming on to the pitch and made some questionable challenges despite already having his name in the referee’s book.

Walters then added Ireland’s second goal of the night. Brady, whose set pieces had been mixed all night, whipped in a free kick from towards the area. The Bosnian defence tried to clear the attempt but ball landed at the feet of striker, Walters, who fired the ball low and past Begovic. The home crowd went wild as it hit home that Ireland were on their way to France next summer.

The visitors were quiet for the rest of the game. Their game was sloppy at times and they failed to trouble the Irish. Vedad Ibisevic came close in injury time to getting a goal back, however, his effort cracked off the woodwork. The Irish were not to denied the win and a clean sheet to match.

With qualification now secured, attention will turn to the draw in Paris on December 12th. The team and fans alike will be glued to their TVs to see who the Irish will face next summer – the dream of Whelan vs. Ronaldo is well and truly alive!

REP. OF IRELAND: Randolph, Coleman, Keogh, Clark, Brady, Hendrick, Whelan (C) (O’Shea 91′), McCarthy, Hoolahan (McClean 54′), Murphy (Long 54′), Walters

Substitutes: Forde, Henderson, Wilson, McGeady, Keane, Christie, Ward, Gibson, Arter
Goals: Walters (23′, 69′)
Yellow Cards: McClean (58′), Long (84′)

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Begovic, Cocalic (Besic 45′), Spahic, Kolasinac, Vranjes, Medunjanin (Djuric 69′), Pjanic, Dzeko (C), Lulic (Ibisevic 80′), Zukanovic, Visca

Substitutes: Buric, Sehic, Bicakcic, Hodzic, Susic, Sunjic, Hajrovic, Hadzic, Salihovic
Yellow Cards: Spahic (19′), Lulic (24′), Djuric (93′), Dzeko (93′)

Referee: Bjorn Kulpers (NED)

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

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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)

Polish loss will be a ‘big dent’ – O’Neill

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Martin O'Neill

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has admitted that defeat to Poland in tomorrow night’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium will be a ‘big dent’ to the goal of automatic qualification for next summer’s tournament in France.

Speaking to media today in Malahide, O’Neill said that defeat tomorrow night ‘will be a big dent in proceedings’ in group D and his squad know that they ‘have to try and win the game.’

‘The importance of the occasion shouldn’t be missed. We played four games now and we’ve picked up seven points. I am delighted to have got something in the Germany game. Brilliant effort. Disappointing to lose at Scotland. I said all along the games at home will shape our destiny. This is the first one of a group of games. Nevertheless, a very important one against a team who have started brilliantly in the competition. It might not decide everything but it will be very important,” said the Republic’s manager.

The manager acknowledged that he has a far idea of who will be in his starting eleven but refused to divulge any names, keeping his cards close to his chest. He will name his team tomorrow ahead of the 7:45pm kick-off.

There were also mentions based on comments made by former Ireland player and assistant manager, Liam Brady, about James McCarthy and his passion in playing for the ‘Boys in Green.’

When these comments were put to him, O’Neill was adamant in his response, ‘I don’t need to question anyone’s passion for playing for Ireland. I genuinely feel that. We might not perform as well but that doesn’t mean players don’t want to play. Absolutely not,’ said O’Neill. He also noted McCarthy’s injury record and the fact the midfielder has only played once for Ireland in the past year (against Georgia last year).

O’Neill was also grilled about his starting formation. This morning’s early training session seemed to suggest a 3-5-2 formation with Stoke’s Jonathan Walters partnering captain Robbie Keane up front. The manager didn’t confirm or deny the formation. Rather, he noted that he and his staff must be aware that of any changes made to the system, the players must also be aware of it and be prepared to adapt. The manager seemed happy in the knowledge that his side were comfortable regardless of whatever system they may use.

He again repeated the point of adaptability when questioned if a 3-5-2 formation would suit Hull City’s Robbie Brady. He pointed to the fact that Brady has played in multiple formations due to his club side’s frequency to change things around.

Keane was full of praise for his potential partner, Walters. The captain said, ‘You know exactly what you get with Jon. He is very, very honest player. He makes it hard for defenders. He doesn’t give them a minute. He scores goals as well. Aside from that, he is a great person to have around. He is a good leader and it’s important to have players like that around the squad.’

As for Poland, the captain stressed that he wasn’t worried about them and that the team know everything about their opposition. He stated that it is now just a case for the players to turn up on the day and perform to the best of their ability. The captain is hoping to be named in tomorrow’s starting eleven, 17 years this week since his international debut against the Czech Republic.

Asked if Robert Lewandowski was the one Polish player to watch out for. O’Neill stressed that the opposition were not a one-man show and they had plenty of talent, capable of causing trouble to his side.

O’Neill told reporters, ‘I think he is a top class player and one of the best strikers in European football. He is playing for a side [Bayern Munich] that is capable of winning any competition in Europe. He is very, very important to them but he is not the only player.’

‘We have seen this in the group, they are not a one-man team. They have got a number of top quality individuals playing in the side, who are able to create things for them. I agree I wouldn’t just get carried away with the one player.’

Despite O’Neill’s comments to the contrary, tomorrow night’s result is make or break for this campaign. A win will help the Republic of Ireland’s cause in group D and will give them momentum heading into the next set of games in the summer. A loss will probably all but rule out Ireland of automatic promotion and they will, most likely, battle it out with Scotland for third place and a spot in the play-offs.

Boys in Green impress against Team USA

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Robbie Brady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland put their Euro 2016 qualifier defeat behind them with a fine 4-1 victory over the USA in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night. Two goals from Robbie Brady and a goal each for Anthony Pilkington and James McClean helped the Irish overcome an attacking American side, who were inadequate in front of goal.

On what was a cold and windy night at the Lansdowne Road venue, Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill made a clean sweep and put out an entirely different starting eleven compared to the team that lost to Scotland last Friday. Debuts were handed to Cyrus Christie at right back, while, David McGoldrick partnered his Ipswich Town teammate, Daryl Murphy up front.

The Boys in Green got off to a great start when McGoldrick played a lovely through ball to Anthony Pilkington. The Cardiff City midfielder completed the move a lovely chip over the keeper with the ball resting at the back of the net and earning him his first international goal. 1-0 Ireland in the opening ten minutes.

Team USA didn’t falter though. They consistently attacked the Irish end and their offense paid off just before half time. A poor attempted pass by Irish captain David Meyler was picked up by the Americans and played into the box. An attempted clearance landed to USA captain, Jozy Altidore, whose cross was met by the head of Chris Wondolowski. The header was met by Mix Dsikerud with the Rosenborg midfielder rising up to slot the ball past Shay Given.

Altidore could have put his side into the lead just before the stroke of half time when his shot crashed off the crossbar and went over. However, the first half ended with the sides all square with the Irish on the back foot in the latter of the half.

However, Ireland came out to second have rejuvenated. They upped the tempo in their game and went on the attack. Cyrus Christie sent a fine pass up the flank to Pilkington. However, Daryl Murphy couldn’t connect to his cross and it went out of play.

It wasn’t long after when Man of the Match, Robbie Brady got his first goal of the game. The Hull City midfielder played a nice one-two with McGoldrick and his shot went passed USA keeper, Hamid. It was the newcomer’s second assist of the game, not a bad way to cap off your international debut.

The game went back and forth with attempts at both ends with the American finishing leaving a lot to be desired. However, James McClean, who replaced Pilkington mid way through the second half, got Ireland’s third goal after collecting the ball on the edge of the box. With the crowd shouting for him to shoot, McClean obliged. His shot deflected off Geoff Cameron, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Brady completed the scoring with less than five minutes to go. His free kick curling into the top left hand corner of the goal. It was a lovely goal that topped off a solid Irish performance.

Speaking after the game, manager Martin O’Neill was pleased with the result, saying, “It was nice to win the game. I thought it was a bit tentative in the first half. We scored from our first proper attack of the game, a great through ball by David McGoldrick and Pilkington took it well. I thought America really came into the game then and probably deserved their equaliser. I thought the second half performance was really terrific. To score the goals that we did was astounding.“

With a good victory and display behind them, the Republic of Ireland squad can look ahead to the next match, a visiting Polish side. O’Neill was pleased with his squad’s response to the Scotland defeat but they need to bring a display, like that in the second half, with them in March of next year when they host the Group D leaders.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Elliot ’85), Christie, Pearce, Clark, Meyler (C), Quinn, Brady, Pilkington (McClean ’62), Murphy (Hendrick ’77), McGoldrick (Long ’77), Stokes (McGeady 60′)

Substitutes: Randolph, Keogh, Coleman, O’Shea, Walters
Goals: Pilkington (7′), Brady (56′, 87′), McClean (’82)
Yellow CardsMcGeady (90′), Meyler (93′)

USA: Hamid, Morales (Garza ’65), Besler, Diskerud, Bedoya, Beckerman (Ream ’87), Alitdore (C) (Rubin ’76), Wondolowski (Wood 45′), Cameron, Chandler (Morris ’76), F.Johnson

Substitutes: S.Johnson,Ibarra, Green
Goals: Diskerud (39′)
Yellow Cards: Beckerman (37′), Altidore (66′), Cameron (85′)

Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland)

Man of the Match: Robbie Brady

Comfortable victory for Ireland as focus shifts towards Georgia

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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