Following three disappointing defeats at competitive underage level today our senior side raised spirits with a rewarding two all draw against Belgium. Ireland started brightly in the opening stages but were rocked on 12 minutes when the visitors scored against the run of play. Stunned by the concession of the goal Ireland were outplayed for the next twenty minutes or so before recovering their composure and settling into a more positive pattern which brought it’s reward with the equaliser on 36 minutes from a spectacular overhead strike from Chiedoze Ogbene.
Ireland set the pace in the early stages of the second half only to again concede the lead with the very poor defending of a corner kick. The response on this occasion was more positive with Ireland being the more dominant side and creating three scoring opportunities which went begging. Undaunted they continued to press for the equaliser and reaped their reward on 86 minutes with a powerful header from substitute Alan Browne following an excellent cross from the ‘man of the match’ Ogbene.
While the contest lacked the absolute intensity of a competitive encounter there were some quality passages of play from Ireland which augur well for the future. In his post match interview manager Stephen Kenny alluded to this point whilst offering a fair assessment of the performance.
Team: Caoimhin Kelleher; Seamus Coleman (c), Shane Duffy, John Egan; Matt Doherty. Jeff Hendrick, Josh Cullen, Jason Knight, James McClean; Chiedoze Ogbene, Callum Robinson
Alan Browne for Hendrick 76′
Will Keane for Knight 76′
Ryan Manning for McClean 80′
Troy Parrott for Robinson 90’+2′
Our Republic of Ireland senior international side take on FIFA Number One seeds Belgium at 5pm on Saturday afternoon in the Aviva Stadium as we celebrate the Centenary of our foundation.
The squad assembled in Dublin today and is joined by new Assistant Coach John Eustace who replaces the departed Anthony Barry. The 42 year old Solihull native is currently Assistant Manager at QPR where he has been in place for four years and he will retain that role. During his playing career, midfielder Eustace played for Coventry City, Derby County, Stoke City and Watford.
Gavin Bazunu, Darragh Lenihan and Mark Travers have been forced to withdraw from the squad through illness and injury and will be replaced by Max O’Leary, Jimmy Dunne and James Talbot.
Republic of Ireland Manager Stephen Kenny has announced a 25 player squad for the upcoming friendly internationals against Belgium and Lithuania. Injury had already ruled out James Collins, Adam Idah, Andrew Omobamidele, Callum O’Dowda and Enda Stevens while Cyrus Christie, Aaron Connolly, Daryl Horgan, Jamie McGrath and Michael Obafemi have not been selected in this squad.
The omission of Obafemi will be a talking point given he has recently found some goal scoring form for Swansea City but his refusal to accept a call up to the U21 squad earlier this week, citing his interest in the senior side only, has backfired and rightly so. When you are invited to represent your country at any level there is no decision to be made. Later in the day, manager Stephen Kenny advised that Obafemi was never under consideration for the seniors or the U21s because of concerns relating to his hamstrings. Hmmmm.
The two newcomers to the squad, Connor Ronan and Mark Sykes, have both been in fine form with their clubs and are excellent technical players.
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Portsmouth on loan from Manchester City), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Max O’Leary (Bristol City), James Talbot (Bohemian)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Nathan Collins (Burnley, Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Jimmy Dunne (QPR)
Midfielders: Alan Browne (Preston North End), Josh Cullen (RSC Anderlecht), Jeff Hendrick (QPR on loan from Newcastle United), Conor Hourihane (Sheffield United on loan from Aston Villa), Jason Knight (Derby County), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion), Connor Ronan (St Mirren on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Mark Sykes (Oxford United)
Forwards: Scott Hogan (Birmingham City), Will Keane (Wigan Athletic), Chiedoze Ogbene (Rotherham United), Troy Parrott (MK Dons on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion)