Player ratings: Hoolahan stands out, but McCarthy stands still
Here is how we rated the Boys in Green after the tight 1-1 draw with Sweden in Ireland’s opening game of Euro 2016.
Darren Randolph – 7
After 45 minutes with nothing to do, Randolph was called upon to save Ireland’s narrow lead, diving strongly to his right to deny Sweden right after Wes Hoolahan’s opener. When the equaliser did eventually come, Randolph couldn’t be faulted. He didn’t enter the tournament with strong club form like Keiren Westwood, but just like in qualifying, the shot-stopper’s performance level rose on the international stage.
Seamus Coleman – 5
Coleman made some uncharacteristic errors in the opening half, twice losing track of the ball to almost allow Swedish openings and he struggled in the second 45 to stem the flowing tide of attackers down the left flank. The Everton defender disappointed in his early forays forward too, but made up for that with a lovely dinked cross that Hoolahan swept home. Definitely room for improvement.
Ciaran Clark – 6.5
Began to justify his selection by buckling his opposite number with a fearsome shoulder in the opening exchanges and continued to impress throughout the first half. Struggled in the second period after Ireland took the lead as Sweden began to dominate but made a couple of crucial clearances to keep them at bay and was unlucky with the own goal.
John O’Shea – 7
There were rumours that O’Shea might lose out in the crowded battle for centre back, but Martin O’Neill showed faith in the Ireland stalwart and it was repaid for the most part. He combined well with Clark to hassle and stifle Zlatan regularly. Loses marks for missing a good opportunity to put Ireland in front, although he was at full stretch.
Robbie Brady – 8
Brady has become one of Ireland’s most dangerous attacking weapons, not only from dead balls, but also on regular raids down the left wing. One of the best crossers in the tournament and encouragingly, the defensive lapses that have been evident in previous games were limited this evening.
Glenn Whelan – 7
Whelan has developed into an integral part of the Irish team. He is a comforting presence in front of the back four and also tried his best to link the play from defence to attack. He has come a long way since Eamon Dunphy’s ‘two Ferraris’ jibe.
James McCarthy – 4
It is hard to remember a single meaningful contribution that McCarthy made this evening. Was lucky to stay on the pitch after a lunge when on a yellow card and offered Coleman no protection in defence.
Jeff Hendrick – 8
Hendrick was a little lucky to make the starting team after seeming to struggle for fitness in the warm-up games but he was Ireland’s most effective attacker for long periods today. He went close on four occasions, the second of which was a gorgeous curler that smacked the crossbar.
Wes Hoolahan – 8
After a quiet opening to the game, Hoolahan grew in prominence towards the end of the first half, getting on the ball regularly and probing for a gap in the Swedish defence. Of course, his main contribution was steering the ball into the corner early in the second half. Hoolahan did excellently to keep the ball down and fire home. Was a baffling decision to replace him with Robbie Keane.
Jon Walters – 5
The Stoke attacker didn’t look fit. Not only did he not offer his usual high energy pressing but on a few occasions when the camera cut to the striker, Walters was visibly blowing hard. Still, it was worth the risk from O’Neill to start one of Ireland’s most important players and today’s game will definitely bring him on a great deal as the Boys in Green prepare for Belgium on Saturday.
Shane Long – 6
Many thought Long might be the hero given his stellar end-of-season form with Southampton and although he didn’t get on the score-sheet, the striker still offered a great deal in attack. His searing pace and relentless work rate troubled the Swedes and he could have easily won Ireland a penalty after a collision following a Robbie Brady cross in the first half. Like a few others, you feel there is a lot more to come as the tournament progresses.
James McClean – 6
McClean didn’t thunder into any challenges like he usually does and didn’t get many opportunities in attack either. Still, there is something to be said about him avoiding a yellow card for once.
Robbie Keane – N/A
Not on long enough to be rated.
Aiden McGeady – N/A
Not on long enough to be rated.