Brady punch helps Boys in Green to end year on a high
AFTER a torrid week of hotel bust ups, a painful defeat in Glasgow and an assistant manager who has appeared hell-bent on keeping the attention off his players, Irish football welcomed the USA to Dublin for the team's last outing of the year. And the result was just what Irish fans were looking for - a comprehensive win. The game finished 4-1 with a few cracking goals in the mix, including a delightful double from Robbie Brady.
Much of the pre-game focus was on Roy Keane's bizarre press conference on Sunday, where he angrily rebuffed questions posed to him by journalists.
The issue of him being a "distraction" to the team was what had got his feathers in such a ruffle.
"With all that has gone on, I suppose it has to be a distraction to the players," was the sobering prediction of Ian McCormack - a self-proclaimed Roy Keane fan from Lucan in Dublin - shortly before kick-off. "I love it all though. He's brilliant. I've always been a Keano fan, even with all the Saipan stuff and everything else that has gone."
Ian was attending the game last night with son Alex, who was at the Aviva for the first time. The Irish Independent was able to team up with 3 Ireland to supply Ian and Alex with tickets to the Players' Lounge afterwards where Alex met some of the Irish stars.
"Unfortunately, my health isn't the best, but I'm hopeful I'll see the Boys in Green again. It's a night to remember anyway and Alex is really looking forward to it," Ian said.
The other talking point was the damage that defeat in Glasgow would do to Ireland's chances of qualifying for the European Championships in France in 2016.
"I don't think it will have too much impact at all to be honest," offered Lynda Kelly, who was at the game with her Hannover Harps clubmates from Co Carlow.
Pal Essmay Mannix added: "We'll beat the Scottish here in Dublin and the fact we got the draw in Germany is really important."
While fans decked out in the stars-and-stripes made their way over to Ireland, Irish captain Robbie Keane was making his way back to his home in Los Angeles.
"He (Martin O'Neill) has to bring in new faces. But it's important they play well and get the result," said Ken Gannon, from Ballinteer, at the game with son Stephen.
"March is a long way away for the next game. It's crucial we finish well," he added.
And there was focus too on new boys Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick, who made their international debutes.
Stephen Kenny, manager of the victorious Airtricity League Champions Dundalk who were special guests at the game, said it was important new faces were given an opportunity. "It's a chance for a lot of players to lay a stake down and give Martin O'Neill something to think about going forward.
"It's a tough test because the USA have a lot of energy," he said.
The American fans were energised and buoyed form a spirited performance at the summer's World Cup.
"I'm confident the USA will win. It's my first soccer game here in Ireland. It should be fun," said Samantha Lawlor (19), who is from Colorado, but is studying Arts and Culture in UCD.
Both sets of players sported white ribbons for the game as part of the male-led campaign to stop violence against women.