Saturday, March 26, 2011
Ireland vs Macedonia - Thoughts
Don't worry. Its all over. You can now breathe a sigh of relief. Those last 10-15 minutes were unbearable but we did, in the end, get the job done. Just. That first half performance just about did it but we were looking edgy towards the end of the game.
The first half was one of our better performances in recent times. The way we passed the ball about - almost Barcelona-esque at times - made us look invincible and after 21 minutes we had two goals to show for it, partly aided by Macedonia's shaky goalkeeping. We kept the tempo up for much of the first half but we were undone by some slick Macedonian play which saw our own Richy Dunne turned inside-out and they halved the deficit to just 2-1 minutes before the break.
Much of the same was expected of us in the second half but we looked a different team when the Irish came out of the tunnel for the second half and not in a good way. We began to look weary and gave away a lot of unnecessary free-kicks in innocuous parts of the pitch. We became sloppy. We allowed Macedonia to play football and us Irish basically invited them to have a few pops at goal which could have proved costly in the end if Westwood hadn't denied goalscorer Trickovski, we'd have been in real trouble.
Coach Giovanni Trappatoni had named the line-up on Friday afternoon and in it, he included the names of three Irishmen who were to make their first competitive starts in an Irish shirt. Kevin Foley was employed at right-back, Darren O'Dea at centre-back and Kieran Westwood was covering for the injured Shay Given. In my opinion, they all did what was required with Westwood making saves when called upon. Kevin Foley, the Wolverhampton Wanderers right-back came across as an exceptionally comfortable individual on the ball and O'Dea performed solidly making it hard for the Macedonian's to break down the Irish wall of defence.
The only negative of the night was the injury to current FAI Player of the Year Kevin Doyle, who took a knock on his knee meaning he was subbed inside the 20 minute mark. Tony O'Donoghue reported pitch side that Doyle would be missing the match against Uruguay on Tuesday and the injury is sure to upset Wolves boss Mick McCarthy who has depended heavily on Doyle this season to make sure Wolves maintain their Premier League status.
We also saw the end to the on-going fiasco that surrounded James McCarthy as he FINALLY made the competitive appearance that see's him officially become an Irish player. McCarthy came on as an 86th minute substitute for Robbie Keane and he put the bed those rumours of his club coach Roberto Martinez claiming that he still hadn't made up his mind of who to play for when he came on late in the game. McCarthy stated both this week and last week that he had his mind set on becoming an Irish - and not Scottish - player and when he came on he was met with an enormously gracious response as the Irish showed they welcomed him into the clan with open arms and we're glad he's here to stay.
I'd also like to commend Robbie Keane on his record-equaling 40th match as captain. That in itself is an achievement and he now draws level with Andy Townsend for most times captaining Ireland. Even though he may be past his prime he showed tonight that he still possesses that strikers instinct with an ever-instinctive finish that saw Ireland match Russia and Slovakia's table topping 10 points from 5 games.
Here's to more of the same from Keane and hopefully he can surpass Townsend's record and with it, bring Ireland into the Euro Championships in 2012.