Ireland overcome tricky Georgia

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Republic of Ireland team celebrate

Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, admitted that his side will need to find a win in their next two matches, against Germany and Poland respectively, to secure at least a playoff spot for next summers European Championship finals in France despite earning three points over Georgia in Dublin on Monday night.

The pace in the first half suggested this game was a friendly rather than an important European Championship qualifier. Both sides had chances but didn’t seem to have that killer instinct in front of goal. Ireland had the first real effort on goal early in the game. Wes Hoolahan worked his way into the box and played a lovely one-two with Jon Walters in the box before delivering a cross that was met by the foot of a diving Robbie Keane. The captain couldn’t connect with the ball correctly and his effort sailed over the crossbar, not troubling Georgia’s keeper, Nukri Revishvili.

Georgia fired back though and striker, Levan Mchedlidze had a couple efforts on goal but they were cleared with ease by the Irish defence. The visitors did have a few more efforts at Irish defence though. Their best effort came midway through the first half. Giorgi Navalovsky whipped in a cross that was met by Tornike Okriashvili, who attempted an audacious bicycle kick. His effort though didn’t connect and the ball dribbled wide.

It was deep into the first half that Ireland had their best effort of the game. After some back and forth in the Georgian box. The ball landed to Seamus Coleman. The Everton defender hit a half volley. His strike had some power behind it and it troubled Revishvili who could only punch the ball away.

The home side made the only change at half time. O’Neill decided to withdraw Keane and replace him with Shane Long up front. Jon Walters seemed to shift into a right side of midfield. The game did pick up in pace and the Irish were on top of the game and put pressure on the visitors from the whistle.

The Irish had numerous efforts on goal but they couldn’t get the power behind the shots. Coleman again had another effort to get on the score sheet. After working well to force his way into the Georgian area, the right back took a shot on goal. His effort was too soft though and was easily collected by Georgia’s keeper.

James McCarthy also failed to capitalise with his efforts on goal. The midfielder had a couple of chances on the edge of the box but he fluffed both efforts and they flew past the goal. McCarthy did not disguise his disgust at both efforts and he knows that he should have done better.

Then came the moment that defined the game. Jeff Hendrick starting from the left side of the pitch moved in and around the Georgian defence, something that resembled to Lionel Messi. He then reached the goal line and cut a short pass to Jon Walters. His effort seemed to deflect off a Georgian defender and rolled into the back of the net. You could see what the goal meant to the Stoke striker. He dashed towards the Irish fans to celebrate what is an important goal in Group D.

Georgia were forced to play the last 10 minutes with 10 men as they lost striker Mchedlidze to what seemed like a hamstring injury. The visitors still pressed for an equaliser late on but could not avail. Loud cheers from the stands greeted the final whistle. This result was another twist in the tale that has been the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Speaking after the game, O’Neill expressed his delight at coming away with three points from what was a tricky game. “We found a way to win in the second half. I thought we were very tentative in the first half. I’m not sure why we should be, having won on Friday. I thought we lacked energy in the first half and consequently created very little and that was a bit of a worry. The players came out strongly in the second half and we deserved to get the goal and we deserved to win the game,” said the Irish manager.

With world champions, Germany set to visit Dublin next month and a visit to Poland not long after, there is set to be more drama in what has turned out to be an interesting qualifying campaign. As O’Neill mentioned, a win in the final two games would all but secure at least a play off position for the Boys in Green, something one would not have expected after the fixture against Scotland in Dublin earlier this summer. However, that will not be an easy task against the two top teams in this group.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark,Brady, Whelan, McCarthy, Hoolahan (McClean 74′), Hendrick, Keane (C) (Long 45′), Walters

Substitutes: Forde, Randolph,Wilson, McGeady, Meyler, Doyle, Christie, Ward, Quinn, Keogh

Goal: Walters (69′)

Yellow Cards: Whelan (74′), McClean (76′)

GEORGIA: Revishvili, Lobzhanidze, Kverkvelia, Kashia (Tsintsadze 75′), Amisulashvili, Khizanishvili (Kenia 80′), Kankava (C), Kazaishvili (Papunashvili 64′), Okriashvili, Navalovsky, Mchedlidze

Substitutes: Loria, Makaridze, Kakabadze, Popkhadze, Merebashvili, Tskhadadze, Vatsadze, Daushvili

Referee: István Vad (Hungary)

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O’Neill ‘delighted’ with assistant Keane

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Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane at Republic of Ireland training

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Ahead of Tuesday’s friendly match with the USA, most of the discussion at today’s press conference with Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was around his assistant manager Roy Keane and his actions of late. O’Neill was quick to defend Keane but seem irked at having to talk about his assistant rather than the players and the game ahead.

The Toffees not so sweet

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Keane blasted Everton for their behaviour in regards to releasing players to the Irish squad in particular Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy. Asked if his comments will have a distraction on the team, O’Neill said, “Every single time that you mention Roy, there either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight, I’m delighted to have him. He has been terrific, really terrific. He has been great around the lads, he has been everything I wanted him to be.”

“There are some things that materialise, that aren’t of his doing to begin with. He has a mind of his own, He can say what he wants. Unless, it is absolutely and utterly in contradiction in what I’m saying to you then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time,” said the manager.

Speaking about Keane’s comments regarding the club, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, speaking to Sky Sports, said “I am a big fan of Roy Keane but he does say some stupid things. That is just totally, totally unfair. We absolutely love our players going on international duty. We would never, ever get in that way of that. Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton Football Club.”

When made aware of Kenwright’s comments, and asked if he will speak to the Everton manager, O’Neill responded, “I think that I will talk [talk to him]. It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning. Honestly, I have other things at this minute to do. I’m not saying they are more important but they are issues I have to address. So, I might get a chance to go down there and find out exactly what was said on both sides and then I will take a view.”

Grealish indecision

The manager was also asked about comments made by Roy Keane about Jack Grealish and his father over the young Aston Villa winger’s indecision to choose between the Republic of Ireland and England. Speaking to the media yesterday, Keane said, “I don’t ask Jack anymore. Sometimes it’s respect, you don’t want to pester people but, unfortunately, a lot would be coming from Jack’s dad. Knowing his dad, we could be waiting a bloody long while.”

Speaking about Keane’s comments, the manager said, “I have spoken to Jack and his father some time ago. They were not in any great hurry at that particular time. I left it entirely up to them. If Jack pulls out of the U-21’s and wants to concentrate on his club football, good luck to him. I understand Roy is not going to be running around there asking Jack’s father every single day has he made his mind up, let them decide themselves.”

Pushed on the topic and asked if the sentiment of the message was not pleasant, there was an awkward silence in the room as O’Neill felt he did not need to add to what he had already said.

Christie and McGoldrick set for Irish debuts

In terms of Tuesday’s game, O’Neill confirmed that both Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson will miss out, with both returning to their clubs. Gibson is out due to a slight knee injury. Keane has returned to LA Galaxy to prepare for their MLS Western Conference Championship game this weekend.

Newcomers to the squad, Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick will start the game according to the manager. Asked about whether or not it was a relief to have a natural right back in the shape of Christie in the squad, O’Neill commented, “Yeah, very much so. That’s something we are looking at obviously. Of course, there is young [Matt] Doherty at Wolves and [Brian] Lenihan as well who has just gone out on loan. I have seen a lot of Cyrus play and I think that he has shown a real keenness to come and join us, which is good. I think he is looking forward to it and at least, it is a natural position for him rather than having to make do with David [Meyler] at full back.”

Tuesday’s game will undoubtedly be a great test for an Irish squad that is low on morale after the agonising defeat to Scotland. However, it will be interesting to see if players like Christie and McGoldrick can take their opportunity to start with both hands and stake a claim for the next qualifier against Poland in March. O’Neill believed it will be a good test for a number of players that didn’t feature on Friday night’s defeat. A win and a good performance against the American’s, even if it is only a friendly, will be a small boost ahead of the crunch match against the Poles next year.

 

O’Neill Refuses To Look Past Gibraltar

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Republic of Ireland Team

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Punch-ups, voicemails and a ‘f**king p***k’ were the talking points this week in the lead up to the Euro 2016 qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar. Thankfully, this was not a bust up in the Irish dressing room rather it was the spicy details leaked from the Republic’s assistant manager, Roy Keane’s new autobiography that has overshadowed the preparations for this game.

However, manager Martin O’Neill refuses to indulge in questions about the former Manchester United skipper’s book. He would rather talk about Saturday’s match, a match in which he hopes to win ahead of the trip to Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday where they will meet World Champions, Germany.

O’Neill is refusing to look ahead though. He is adamant that his team’s focus is purely on the minnows. He knows that with a lack of focus there could be an almighty upset. “We have to win the game, it’s really just as simple as that. We have to win the match. This is very important for us. There are three points on offer, we have to go and win the game,” stated the Derry man.

O’Neill discussed how his Polish counterparts were ‘relieved’ to get the first goal in their game against Gibraltar. It had been a shaky start but the Polish really came into their own after taking a 1-0 lead into the break, they went on to win 7-0. Commenting on that game he said, “They found it difficult. They scored a host of goals towards the end of the game but they said they’d found it difficult. And I wasn’t sure what they meant until I watched the game. And, honestly, Gibraltar did cause a problem or two.”

There will be plenty of thought in regards to who makes the starting 11 on Saturday. One of the positions that will be of interest to fans and pundits alike is at right back, after Seamus Coleman was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

20 year-old Hull City right back Brian Lenihan was drafted into the squad as his replacement. It is dizzying times for the Cork man. Only a few months ago he was playing in Turner’s Cross for Cork City now he has signed with a Premier League side and could potentially make his debut for the Republic of Ireland senior team. However, the manger may be cautious to throw the new boy into the mix even though he stated that the Hull defender doesn’t look out of place in the training sessions.

Daryl Murphy will be another player looking to state his claim for a starting place at the Aviva. The Ipswich striker has scored five goals in six games, which has helped his team move into sixth place in the Championship table. The 31 year-old hasn’t started a game for the Republic since his debut against Ecuador in 2007. Since that occasion he has only made appearances from the bench, losing out to Shane Long and Kevin Doyle in partnering the perennial Robbie Keane.

With Germany ahead of them and the desire to qualify for 2016, the Irish squad will recognise that this is an important three points on offer. A slip up on Saturday for a draw, or dare say a loss, will undoubtedly dent the confidence ahead of the clash with the World Champions on Tuesday night.

Honeymoon is over for the Dream Team as Serbia hand O’Neill his first defeat

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Ireland vs SerbiaThe Dream Team of O’Neill and Keane returned to Dublin but it wasn’t the result they were looking for as the Serbians left with a victory over an Irish team, that at times showed some great skill but was still a work in progress.

It was close to being the perfect start for the Irish after James McClean sent in a cross that was struck well by Glenn Whelan into the back of net. The assistant referee ruled the goal offside after judging that Wes Hoolahan was offside. Hoolahan’s foot grazed the ball before going into the goal. However, replays showed that Hoolahan was played onside by Dušan Basta.

It didn’t take long for Ireland to put pressure on the Serbians once again. That pressure paid off when a mix up in communication between captain, Branislav Ivanović, and keeper, Vladimir Stojković, gifted Shane Long the ball, who, without hesitation, chipped the keeper perfectly to score the opening goal of the game.

Serbia then settled into the game and had a handful of chances at goal including a powerful header from Ivanović that was cleared off the line by James McCarthy.  Dušan Tadić also had a great effort on goal. The FC Twente midfielder’s effort from outside the box had to be tipped over the crossbar by David Forde. The Irish seemed to fall off the pace a bit as halftime approached and would carry this into the second half.

This was evident in the second half as Ireland instantly threw away their lead. Some poor play from Ireland, allowed Serbia to pick up the ball outside the box and Aleksandar Kolarov’s pass forced James McCarthy to attempt a block but instead he put the ball into the back of his own net. It was an unfortunate incident for Everton man, who up to that point was having a good game.

Ireland applied some pressure following the goal and Shane Long will be kicking himself that he didn’t restore Ireland’s lead after a perfect ball from Wes Hoolahan set Long on course for his second goal. However, the Hull City striker scuffed his shot after trying to chip the keeper and the look on his face after his attempt summed up his effort.

The Serbians then got the winning goal following some more poor play from Ireland, which led to a scramble in the box with the ball landing at the feet of Filip Dordević. It was an easy tap in for the striker, who played well throughout his time on the pitch.

Both goals summed up the work that needs to be done when the team meets up again. Seamus Coleman had a disappointing game. The Everton defender seemed to lose the ball easily and it could be argued that he was at fault for both of Serbia’s goals.

There were positives to take away from the game though as the combination of Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long looked promising, James McClean also looked well on the flanks, James McCarthy also performed well in the centre of midfield even with his own goal.

The final score was not what fans were looking for, but as Roy Keane had suggested previously the job at hand is a “work in progress” and that was visible. Another test will come in May, as the Boys in Green take on another higher-ranking team in the shape of Fatih Terim’s Turkey.