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Spirit of Lansdowne leads Boys in Green to solid win

THE buried rubble of Lansdowne was awoken last night as the Aviva came to life for its first competitive game.

The football wasn't always a thing of beauty and the stadium's teething problems were obvious but at the end a 3-1 scoreline was all that mattered.

Ireland is top of its group in the race for Poland and Ukraine, and Giovanni Trapattoni will be as content as the fans that flooded back onto the damp streets of Dublin.

There were some hiccups even before the kick-off, not least the FAI's failure to turn the game into a sell out.

There was a shameful amount of empty seats, particularly in the corporate areas, but the 40,293 who did show up made their voices heard.


However, Robbie Keane appeared lost for words during the opening formalities when a microphone failed just as he was about to read the UEFA fair play pledge.

When his Andorran counterpart suffered a similar fate, the crowd plugged the gap with chants of 'Keano' before the pledge was abandoned in favour of the national anthems.

The lack of a fair play message did seem to have some impact later in the game as Andorran players repeatedly went to the ground in dubious circumstances, requiring the game to stop as they got medical attention.

Within 90 seconds of kick-off the anticipation around the stadium was palpable as Ireland surged forward.

And it took just 14 minutes for Kevin Kilbane to complete his hat-trick against Andorra -- albeit one over three games.

He has now scored in every game that the Republic has played against the Pyrenees minnows.

His header was the catalyst that sparked the fans to life, but it was Kevin Doyle's stunning strike after 41 minutes that really gave them volume.

With his left foot, Doyle struck the goal of the game past Josep Antoni Gomes Moreira.

The former Argos worker must have wished he was anywhere except the Aviva as the shot flew past.

But soon Ireland went from stunning to stunned as Christian Martinez fired an equally rapturous shot past Shay Given.

Unfortunately for him there seemed to be no Andorra fans in the stadium and his sweet strike was met with a stony silence.

A batch of fans seated behind the Lansdowne Road goal kept the tempo up as it regularly lulled on the field.

Chants of 'Ooh aah Paul McGrath' suggested the crowd's longing for the glory of yesteryear. But McGrath's name did eventually give way to that of Robbie Keane, after the Irish skipper slotted home the third goal of the evening.

His shot seemed to take an eternity to cross the line as the crowd took a collective intake of breath before releasing the loudest cheer of the night.

And that's where the excitement ended. Afterwards Trapattoni said he was "glad because the team understand me".

The translation into non-'manager speak' might simply read: "Job done."