Tuesday 16 January 2018

Fans on tenterhooks for qualifying crunch

At the match between Ireland and Moldova in the Aviva Stadium last night was Martin Conroy (8) from Co Offaly Photo: Sportsfile
At the match between Ireland and Moldova in the Aviva Stadium last night was Martin Conroy (8) from Co Offaly Photo: Sportsfile
At the match between Ireland and Moldova in the Aviva Stadium last night was Harry Brady (12) from Dalkey Photos: Sportsfile
At the match between Ireland and Moldova in the Aviva Stadium last night were Aaron (13), Darragh (6) and Amy (9) McManus Photos: Sportsfile
At the match between Ireland and Moldova in the Aviva Stadium last night were AJ (7), Aidan and Brodie (5) Doyle, from Co Wicklow. Photos: Sportsfile

Ryan Nugent

All roads lead to Cardiff for what's sure to be a nerve-jangling Monday night.

Thankfully, the Moldova game went off without a hitch - even if Wales so far haven't followed our script.

It was comfortable if not spectacular at the Aviva last night, downing the Moldovans by 2-0 and an expectant crowd telling everyone who wanted to hear that we'll finish the job against the Welsh.

Though "you're hardly gonna believe us", they maintained.

The Welsh, by virtue of beating Georgia, failed to do what the Scots and England had done the night before and offer Martin O'Neill's men a helping hand.

Nonetheless, thousands of supporters travelling across the water this weekend will be crammed into every pub in Cardiff, biting their nails for 90 minutes...and that's only for the Scotland match on Sunday, hoping for a slip-up in Slovenia.

It's a fickle world isn't it?

Laois man Shane Dowling thinks so, but he's not expecting to feel any sympathy for the Scots if they fail away to the Slovenians.

"Scotland is big, they got the result on Thursday night that helped us. We were supporting them then, but we'll have to go against them next time," he said.

Wales's success in Tbilisi last night ensures a tighter than ever scramble for tickets for supporters of the Boys in Green heading over for Monday night's game.

With the match already a sell-out, and hundreds, perhaps thousands of Irish going over ticketless, expect those same Cardiff pubs to be jam-packed on Monday night. Though there are many who won't make it to Wales and will be watching elsewhere...perhaps even in the office.

Natasha Lynch (23) and Darragh McCann (21) from Cavan won't have time off work to watch, but they expect the game to be a tight one. "I'm not sure about Wales, we were at the home game against Wales and it was tough," Natasha said.

However, Darragh has a plan to tune in. "We work nights so I might have to sneak into the boss's office and take a look at it on the computer," he said.

Barry Doyle from Kill in Co Kildare was confident going into the stadium, though unlike most supporters he may not have been too delighted about Daryl Murphy's early strike.

"I don't want them to score too early in case they just try to sit back and defend for the whole game," he had said.

The second goal would have settled any nerves - and it's on to the next one.

"We just have to win both of our games and hopefully we'll be all right in the end," he added.

It wasn't only the crowd that were feeling optimistic, the stadium's staff even got in on the act. One fancied the team to top the group, after hearing Austria had defeated the Serbs, while another just pointed out the straightforward task ahead.

"Go over, beat Wales, onto the play-offs then book your tickets for Russia...it won't be cheap," he chirped.

Confident

Dave Carpenter was there with his son Alec (10) - both were quietly confident about the Wales match. "We have to have a good chance, we'll be a lot more confident without Gareth Bale playing. If we set up an attacking team, we've a good chance," said Dave.

Meanwhile, John Hurley from Cork expects to be "screaming at the telly" come Monday night.

"I'd say we can hold them off, Bale is missing so there's every chance," he said.

"When the gun is to the head and when we're under pressure we always do well," he added.

On Monday the gun will be to the head of both sides, let's see if anyone can pull the trigger.

Irish Independent

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