This evening’s scoreless draw with Bulgaria in the final League B Group 4 Nations League encounter at the Aviva Stadium brought an end to a quite dreadful senior international year. The result does however ensure our survival at League B level rather than relegation to League C which is the fate of Bulgaria.
A baptism of fire may not accurately reflect the introduction new manager Stephen Kenny has encountered during the first eight contests of his senior international reign. One goal, in the final minutes of the opening encounter with Bulgaria in Sofia, is a sad indictment of our attacking ability. With nigh on thirty players utilised during the period there has been little, if indeed any, real chance to build solid bases and structures to bring into the upcoming World Cup qualification campaign. The world pandemic which has had a serious impact on all aspects of the football environment would suggest that the whole period might be written off.
While some positives have emerged, the balance sheet also provides a series of negatives. Stephen Kenny faces a herculean task to bring order and positivity to the scene with the likelihood of three World Cup qualifying contests being scheduled for the next international window in March 2021.
This evening’s contest was a dire affair which for the most part lacked any semblance of real ambition. Ireland did create four scoring opportunities but once again failed to find the net. Robbie Brady‘s effort which struck the crossbar did deserve better but both James Collins and Ronan Curtis were amiss with their opportunities.
The few positives were provided by youngsters Dara O’Shea and Jason Knight while the late introduction of Josh Cullen provided greater midfield solidity. O’Shea has emerged with great credit over this series of fixtures while Knight brings an energy and industry which seems to have deserted some senior players.
Tonight’s results see us consigned to Pot Three for next month’s World Cup qualification draw, set for Zurich on Monday the 7th December. We await the draw with some degree of trepidation whilst hoping that the new year will bring better times on both the world front and our international football environment.
Darren Randolph; Dara O’Shea, Shane Duffy(c), Kevin Long, Ryan Manning; Jason Knight, Conor Hourihane, Robbie Brady; Daryl Horgan, James Collins, Ronan Curtis
Josh Cullen for Horgan 67′
Jack Byrne for Brady 78′
Cyrus Christie for Manning 85′
Sean Maguire for Collins 85′
Troy Parrott for Curtis 85′