Underwhelming start for new regime…03/09/2020

The Republic of Ireland, under the guidance of new manager Stephen Kenny, scored an added time equaliser to earn a UEFA Nations League point from a one all draw with Bulgaria in Sofia this Thursday evening. There are mixed emotions surrounding the performance which lacked real ingenuity but the dramatic late equaliser from captain Shane Duffy was justified on the balance of play.

With just three days preparation time it was always going to be difficult to implement the playing style of the new manager. There were however some indications of what we may expect in the future. The match statistics show that Ireland had 63% possession although much of this was in our own half involving our back four. Ireland had 14 efforts on goal compared to 10 for the hosts but only three of those were on target. The corner count of 5 to 1 also favoured Ireland and indeed the 93rd minute equaliser came from that avenue with skipper Duffy powerfully heading home a delightful delivery from substitute Robbie Brady.

There were some mixed performances from the playing personnel with Aaron Connolly, playing wide on the left, providing the brightest moments in his ‘man of the match’ performance. Goalkeeper Darren Randolph, whilst not regularly troubled, provided a competent and steady last line of defence and quite noticeably sought to pass the ball out from the back at all times rather than the more traditional lengthy kick previously prevalent. Jeff Hendrick was very much the primary operator in midfield being involved in much of our finer moments. There was a degree of rustiness involving several of our players with none of the back four looking entirely up to speed and by his own admission, Shane Duffy was culpable for the concession of the Bulgarian goal on 56 minutes. There was an excellent first half performance from Callum O’Dowda, playing wide on the right, but he faded in the second period before being replaced. Debutant Adam Idah was not provided with any goalscoring opportunities but worked tirelessly in the challenging lone striker role.

Sunday afternoon’s encounter with Finland, who lost to Wales by the
only goal in Helsinki this evening, will provide further opportunity for Stephen Kenny to implant his philosophy in the players although of course there is a very short time frame.

Player Ratings
Darren Randolph       7
Matt Doherty          6
Shane Duffy           6
John Egan             6
Enda Stevens          6
Jeff Hendrick         7
James McCarthy(-70)   6
Conor Hourihane       6
Callum O’Dowda(-74)   6
Adam Idah(-77)        6
Aaron Connolly        8
Robbie Brady(70)      6
Callum Robinson(74)   6
Shane Long(77)        6