Sport Soccer

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Adam pulls strings in rout of North as Tartan army find their voice


Ruaidhri O'Connor at the Aviva Stadium

IT wouldn't have happened at Croke Park, would it?

After all the speculation, fear and hype surrounding the visit of the England rugby team to Croke Park in 2007, 'God Save the Queen' was roundly booed at a Dublin stadium last night and the world kept turning.

To whom were we to direct our shock and ire? Well it was Elizabeth II's own subjects from Scotland who drowned out the tribute to their monarch at the Aviva Stadium.

The British National Anthem was played at a Northern Ireland international match south of the border for the first time, as the agreement between the FAI and IFA, that only home anthems are played when the sides meet, didn't apply in Ballsbridge last night.

Northern Ireland's fans replied in kind by roundly booing the 'Flower of Scotland', before both sets of fans moved on to keep up the singing that made for a memorable atmosphere. The anthems business was unedifying, but quickly forgotten.

On the pitch the pace was quicker and the tackles snappier than they had been the night before, with the players reacting in kind to the vociferous support.

A night on from the respectful shadow boxing of Ireland's win over Wales, the Carling Nations Cup served up an entertaining, if one-sided, derby match, with slightly more than half the attendance making multiples of the noise.

Sure there were more seats empty than full and the lesson from the first instalment of the tournament may see this type of fixture moved to Glasgow or Belfast where a bigger crowd would be guaranteed. But as a once-off occasion, it was far more enjoyable than what had passed the night before.

The presence of kilted men wandering around the capital was apparent to those going about their daily business throughout yesterday. They were joined in the evening by a travelling horde from north of the border, both providing a small, but welcome, boost to the coffers of Dublin's hostelries.

And while the Welsh fans travelled and made some noise on Tuesday night, the Scots and Ulstermen were here in greater numbers and heartier voice.

The mingling on the DART to the game belied the fact that the fans were separated at the stadium with the green swathes occupying the small terrace at the Havelock Square End, and on the other side of a line of luminous jackets, the tartan army were in full voice at the southern end of the stadium.

Based on the past two night's action the new competition looks like it will be decided between the Scots and Ireland after they both cruised to victory.

Northern Ireland's fans might have given as good as they got, but on the pitch their side couldn't match the men in navy's speed and movement as Charlie Adam pulled the strings from midfield.

After the slow pace of the previous evening's fare, this was a much brisker affair and the goals came quicker, but were of less quality, than Ireland's had been. The 5,000 or so Scots weren't complaining when Kenny Miller (pictured) opened the scoring after the Northern Irish defence failed to deal with Adam's corner.

James McArthur then floated a cross that ended up in Jonathan Tuffey's top corner and even he couldn't hide his surprise at an aesthetically pleasing, if unintentional, strike.

The North were booed off by their fans at half-time, before re-emerging to have their offside trap destroyed by well-worked move involving Stephen Naismith and Adam that led to Celtic's Kris Commons beating the beleaguered Tuffey.

Far more triumphalist than the Irish fans' polite applause the night before, the tartan army delighted in their victory.

On this evidence, the final match between Ireland and Scotland on May 29 will be a clash to look forward to, but Wales versus Northern Ireland two nights prior to that will struggle to capture anyone's imagination.

NORTHERN IRELAND -- Tuffey; McArdle (Hodson h-t), McAuley, Craigan (Thompson 66), Baird; Davis (Norwood 57), McCann (Healy h-t), Evans, McGinn (Boyce 72); McCourt, Patterson.

SCOTLAND -- McGregor; Hutton, Berra, Caldwell, Bardsley (Snodgrass 57); Morrison (Maguire 80), Adam (Bannan 57), Naismith (M Wilson 57), McArthur, Commons (Conway 72); Miller (D Wilson 90).

REF -- T Connolly (Ireland).

Irish Independent

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