After James McClean’s goal gave the Republic of Ireland a huge three points in Vienna almost a year ago, things were looking bright for World Cup qualification. However, it was still early days and the boys in green have regressed performance-wise.
That seems like a distant memory. Frustrating draws against Wales, Austria and perhaps most costly in Georgia were followed by the hammer blow Alexsandar Kolarov’s left foot gave Ireland’s hopes of making it to Russia.
Without the suspended Robbie Brady and James McClean, perhaps it was a feeling of getting the job done against Moldova. Ireland actually started quite well with Callum O Dowda pulling the strings in midfield and Daryl Murphy’s two goals, especially the well worked second leaving us wanting and expecting more.
It never came to fruition as Shane Long’s dire form continued in front of goal and in the second half Moldova dominating possession. That is simply not good enough against a team ranked 156th in the world.
The likes of the Maldives and Solomon Islands are ranked ahead of the opposition that Ireland faced in Dublin.
There is much debate as to whether O Neill should have been given the contract extension but regardless of that, his reluctance to change the team or give players more of a chance is simply infuriating. Ireland were as flat as a pancake in the second half with the minnows gaining a foothold in the game even if they did not look too threatening. It took O Neill until after the 70th minute to introduce Harry Arter and Aiden McGeady.
It was a great moment to see Sean Maguire finally make his long overdue debut for his country but the former Cork City man only got less than ten minutes though – which is hardly enough time to make a significant impact.
The Preston North End striker already showed in the little time he was on in flashes that is much superior with the ball at his feet than Long. The Southampton forward is an admirable player and he will always be remembered for the winner against Germany, but he is completely off form.
Yet he is part of the tried and trusted so is likely to start in the crunch game in Cardiff on Monday night. Anything less than three points is not enough. Wales will be missing star man Gareth Bale which is a boost but on current form, it is difficult to see how Ireland can pull off one of those inspirational performances that will be required. They are very hard to watch.
However, let’s hope the boys in green can tear up the form book and gain a play off spot at least at the expense of our Celtic neighbours from across the sea.
In this week’s edition of the Mixer Football Podcast we discuss the timing of Martin O’Neill’s new contract, look at a massive weekend for the Ireland national side as well as the usual analysis of the latest League of Ireland action.