Ireland were held to a scoreless draw by Wales in the Nations League contest played in the Aviva Stadium this Sunday afternoon.
Following the pre-match hullabaloo surrounding the Covid-19 related exclusions from the squad, Stephen Kenny made four changes to the side which started in Bratislava on Thursday. Kevin Long replaced John Egan in central defence, Jayson Molumby came in to midfield in place of the injured James McCarthy while Robbie Brady and Shane Long replaced attacking duo Callum Robinson and the injured David McGoldrick. There were just seven players available for the substitute bench including two goalkeepers.
The early exchanges were extremely timid and lacked the passion normally associated with an encounter with Wales. While the pace of the game did pick up a little, it never reached any great heights.
Ireland’s already depleted defensive ranks were dealt a further blow on 25 minutes when Kevin Long was forced to withdraw with a head injury. He was replaced by the only available defender, Cyrus Christie who occupied his usual right back slot while Matt Doherty switched to centre back.
Ireland do seek to play a more controlled possession based game under Stephen Kenny and this was again in evidence but much of that possession was in our own half. The Irish defence remained steadfast for the most part with Darren Randolph required to only make two routine saves over the course of the match. He did however have one moment of trepidation, when having comfortably collected a cross following a corner, he dropped the ball and on another occasion might well have conceded a penalty in the subsequent scramble to retrieve the situation.
Ireland did create a number of goalscoring opportunities but our failure to capitalize and convert remains a significant problem. Robbie Brady, Shane Long and substitute Daryl Horgan all had excellent chances but none even hit the target. Sadly we only had one on target effort throughout the contest with Jeff Hendrick‘s long range shot not troubling the goalkeeper.
Despite the upheavals, our defence again performed admirably with Matt Doherty actually performing better in his emergency central defensive role than his hitherto full back performances. Young Jayson Molumby was excellent in the holding midfield role and offers an appealing option to retain the position. He did suffer a 90th minute injury but hopefully he does recover in time for Helsinki. Jeff Hendrick again started in the advanced midfield position and while committed and energetic throughout it may not be the role for him. Robbie Brady provided some pleasing cameos and his dead ball deliveries offered rays of opportunity.
Indeed all of the players offered total effort and commitment with James McClean taking things just a shade too far resulting in his dismissal on 83 minutes following a second bookable offence.
While there are clear playing style developments amid some promising passages of play, we remain very much a work in progress. Manager Stephen Kenny must be exasperated by the events surrounding the two matches this week but hopefully time and patience from all of us will ultimately be rewarded.
Team: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy(c), Kevin Long, Enda Stevens; Jayson Molumby, Conor Hourihane; Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean; Shane Long
Cyrus Christie for K Long 25′
Josh Cullen for J Molumby 90′
Daryl Horgan for R Brady 74′
Sean Maguire for S Long 74′