Tuesday 25 October 2016

Very little to cheer about at the Aviva in game that will be banished from the memory

Republic of Ireland 0 England 0

Published 07/06/2015 | 15:05

In the end, the sub-plot to what promised to be an emotive occasion at the Aviva Stadium turned out to be more intriguing than the game itself.

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On a day when so much was expected, Ireland and England failing to serve up the spectacle one of the most eagerly anticipated internationals of recent years demanded. That this was a game that failed to get out of first gear, with the inevitability of the outcome apparent from first to last.

Fleeting Irish chances for Daryl Murphy and Jon Walters were the best Ireland could muster, while England managed just three shots on target on a day when many of their star names failed to spark. In truth, this was a lunchtime bore in the Dublin sunshine, with the final whistle greeted with bemusement by those present.

The narrative around England's first visit to Dublin since that night 20 years ago may have been the dominant theme in the build-up to the game, but this occasion was always going to be incomparable to the infamous occasion that poured venom on game's reputation in 1995.

Back then, the playing of the national anthem was a cue for England fans to do what they did better than anyone else at the time, with many of them viewing the abandonment of the game as a triumph for their thuggery. Roll the clock forward and the atmosphere could not have been more contrasting.

While there were some jeers to be heard as the anthems were played and more echoing around the Aviva Stadium as the England fans offered up their own rendition of God Save The Queen shortly before half time, the poison that was present at Lansdowne Road the last time this fixture was played was peacefully absent.

In fact, as this match got underway, the lack of buzz around a stadium that was far from full did little to lift the action on the field, with the tepid intensity not what you might have expected between these two old foes. The odd crunching challenge from England midfielder Jordan Henderson aside, this suitably lived up to its tag as a friendly international.

The Ireland team sent into battle by Martin O'Neill had more of an experimental look to it than England's starting eleven, with all-Ipswich front two of Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick given an audition to take on the goal scoring duties that will that will, one day, be handed over by Robbie Keane.

It was Murphy who had the best chances to make his mark in the first half, with his 27th minute shot that fizzed past England keeper Joe Hart also skipping wide of the far post. He was then guilty of missing the target when picked out Robbie Brady's well directed set-piece.

They were fleeting chances that Murphy would have lamented at the break, yet O'Neill will have been the happier of the two managers after 45 minutes that saw Ireland command a share of possession and a bulk of the half chances that were created.

Robbie Brady in action against Adam Lallana
Robbie Brady in action against Adam Lallana

Aiden McGeady's improved performance on the left flank will have encouraged O'Neill as Ireland need the Everton star to start performing as the senior player he has long since been, on a day when he won his 76th cap for his country.

A powerful England team spearheaded by captain Wayne Rooney offered little to trouble Ireland's defensive line, with Adam Lallana's shot shortly before the break the best they offered in a half that suggested they lacked a cutting edge to their play.

O'Neill's half time changes were positive, as he threw Shane Long and James McClean into the fray, yet it was England who had the first big chance of the second half as Wayne Rooney appeared set to run clear on goal after Ireland gave the ball away cheaply. The Manchester United striker's first touch turned out to be a pass to Ireland keeper Westwood.

A fizzing shot from substitute Jon Walters in the 62 minute forced a smart save out of Hart, with McGeady guilty of failing to control the ball when he had a chance to convert the follow up. It was a half chance that could have been more for Ireland.

Shay Given - who was curiously brought on by O'Neill after 61 minutes - was forced into a sprawling save to deny Andros Towsend late on and an appearance by Bournemouth's Harry Arter gave the Bournemouth midfielder his first cap, but the truth was this game looked destined to finish scoreless from first minute to last.

A lack of drive to win in both sides meant neither deserved to emerge victorious and so England's run of failing to beat Ireland since 1985 continues. In truth, this game exposed the flaws in the make-up of both sides, but at least the bitterness that still lingered from the last match here can now be banished.

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