| 17.9°C Dublin

Brady gives Trap food for thought


Kevin Doyle (left) celebrates with Robbie Brady after scoring Ireland's third goal against Oman

Kevin Doyle (left) celebrates with Robbie Brady after scoring Ireland's third goal against Oman

Kevin Doyle (left) celebrates with Robbie Brady after scoring Ireland's third goal against Oman

A window to the future at Craven Cottage. Now, it's just a matter of whether that future starts next month.

Everything that happened here should be placed in the context of Oman's weaknesses.

Still, it was impossible not to be cheered by an Irish first-half performance full of confidence and attacking invention. A plethora of second-half substitutions led to a scattered finish in a front of a sparse crowd in Fulham.

But the punters who made the effort will have made their way home talking about the contribution of newcomer Robbie Brady, who was involved in three of Ireland's goals, with the highlight a superb volley from the edge of the area to make it a goalscoring debut.

Giovanni Trapattoni will also have noted a fine display from Shane Long, and the extra option provided by Seamus Coleman overlapping from right-full.

Although Oman's inability to deal with crosses was pivotal to the outcome, it was a more varied approach that brought Ireland into promising positions. So, it will be fascinating to see what lessons, if any, Trapattoni takes from this game into the showdown with Germany.

"We'll have to sit down and decide whether we are strong enough to attack or we need to play a different game," said the Irish manager, who is mulling over whether to use a three-man central midfield that could include Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and James McCarthy.

That assignment will be a different ball game to this encounter.

The Omanis were confused beforehand when an anthems cock-up resulted in the broadcast of FIFA's official tune, with large parts of the crowd thinking it was the Gulf region's anthem.

Cue confused looks on the faces of Paul Le Guen's players when the TV producers went for the walk down the line to capture the puzzled stares on their faces.

That problem was eventually solved, but the red-shirted disorientation carried into the early minutes with a deflected Kevin Doyle cross almost turned past his own goalkeeper by Mohammed Al Balushi. Wigan's Ali Al-Habsi reacted well to save.

A fluffed clearance from David Forde at the other end briefly caused chaos in the Irish penalty area, but that problem was solved and by the seventh minute Ireland were ahead. The genesis was a measured build-up from defence which culminated in a soft foul on Doyle.

Then, Ireland reverted to type with a set-piece goal. Sean St Ledger, who only came in before kick-off after Paul McShane fell ill in the warm-up, wheeled away to the back post to steer a lofted Brady delivery across the six-yard box.

With Oman dozing, Long capitalised with a downward header.

As ever, an early goal opened the game up. And there was a noticeable contrast in the Irish modus operandi from the laboured efforts in Kazakhstan. David Meyler and McCarthy were prominent, and almost got themselves into trouble by overplaying on more than one occasion. Oman responded with a passage that concluded with Ahmed Al Muhaiyri firing over from distance.


But Ireland always looked dangerous, and it was the axis of Coleman and Brady on the right side that was providing the most joy. The second goal demonstrated their strength. Coleman provided another dimension with an overlapping run.

While his cross lacked deadly accuracy, Al Muhaiyri could only head it to the edge of the area, where Brady met it on the run with a right-foot volley that gave Al-Habsi no chance.

"He can give us goals," said Trapattoni, who admitted that, aside from Brady's cameo, the experiment with positive thinking full-backs was the most interesting aspect of this exercise.

Green shirts screamed for the ball. Long was a bundle of energy, dropping deep in a manner that was effective, and even throwing in one Cruyff flick for good measure. It was that kind of evening.

Before the interval, Ireland added another from a free-kick scenario which Brady again took control of. After scoring with his right, the Baldoyle lad used his left peg to send in a pacey delivery that demanded to be attacked. With the Omanis floundering, captain for the night Doyle applied the final touch.

Trapattoni and Le Guen engaged in a long discussion as they made their way to take their second-half positions. The Frenchman looked animated by his team's failings, and will certainly be happier with elements of how the game unfolded from there.

The Italian introduced Darren Randolph and Alex Pearce to make it a total of four new caps on the night. And the former, who keeps goal for Motherwell, was far busier than Forde.

Al-Habsi found himself in the spotlight consistently, though, and had to be alert to brilliantly deny Andy Keogh with a fingertip save. That preceded a raft of changes which altered the shape of the Irish side. James McClean came on to a hero's welcome and a few chants of 'He tweets what he wants'.

Twice, he came close to registering a first international goal with Al-Habsi again diving low to his left to push away a powerful free-kick before the Sunderland winger overclubbed at the end of a move which revolved around his club colleague, Meyler, who will be hoping that Trapattoni didn't pay too much attention to the free kicks he gave away.

Likewise, Coleman was absolved from defensive duties after Oman pulled a goal back, although there was a collective failing to pay attention in the build-up. Eid Al Farsi was slipped into space and converted.

That was harsh on Randolph, who deserved to keep a clean sheet for two fine examples of shot-stopping in a period where Ireland switched off.

"We lost a bit of geometry on the pitch," said Trapattoni.

After a series of reshuffles, Coleman wound up alongside Meyler in central midfield, with Keogh up top alongside late arrival Simon Cox and McClean and Aiden McGeady on either flank.

The latter was sent on for Brady with 20 minutes to go and responded with a corner that had better results than many of his attempts in Astana. It helped that Oman seemed to be petrified by Pearce.

Reading's finest central defender had earlier threatened to open his international account at the first attempt, and succeeded with a precise nod into the bottom corner past a frustrated Al-Habsi.

A late foot injury to Cox resulted in a worried response from the Irish medical team. Ironically, it was his deployment on the wing that raised McClean's ire last Friday. If there is a vacancy now then perhaps it is Brady who will benefit.

Irish Independent