Sunday 17 December 2017

Cyrus Christie expects 'fierce' Welsh battle

Ireland’s Callum O’Dowda rides the challenge of Moldova’s Alexandru Gatcan during last night’s qualifier. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Callum O’Dowda rides the challenge of Moldova’s Alexandru Gatcan during last night’s qualifier. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

A rewarding night against Moldova at the Aviva Stadium for Martin O'Neill's men, but afterwards the players immediately set their sights on the challenge to come against Wales in Cardiff on Monday.

The Irish manager had stressed all week the need to focus only on the Group D minnows, and refused to countenance any discussion about the Welsh in the team camp until the final whistle blew in last night's game.

He had warned that Moldova "came with nothing to lose, which in itself made the game dangerous."

His team heeded O'Neill's words in some style when Daryl Murphy's first goal after just a minute setting the right tone for the Irish.

Murphy, man of the match, added a second in that first half, and that was it as far as goals were concerned.

But it was enough to get the job done. Now it's on to Cardiff for a game that Shane Duffy dubbed 'a cup final' that has echoes of the Italy match in Euro 2016.

"It's a Cup Final feel, winner takes all, and the best team will win," said Duffy.

The big Derryman hailed the performance of Daryl Murphy, saying: "Yeah, brilliant. He's been on fire this season, already, so it's good to see him get goals for Ireland."

Duffy, Cyrus Christie, Stephen Ward, David Myler and Aiden McGeady all survived the match without getting a yellow card which would have ruled them out of the Wales game.

Given the torrid nature of the first encounter between the sides at the Aviva Stadium, it's a fair bet that cards will be flashed on Monday night.

Defender Christie, who has taken on the right-back role following the broken leg that Seamus Coleman suffered against the Welsh, expects another tough encounter.

"It's going to be a battle, one we're going to be up for. We've got to bring our A game. We've got to give it 120 per cent.

"We've got to take the confidence from tonight into that game. It will be very close again. We won't fear them.

"It definitely is going to be a fierce game. The tackles will fly in. We've got to look after ourselves. We've got to protect ourselves and we've got to win our battles," said Christie.

An added bonus was O'Neill's reward for throwing Bristol City's Callum O'Dowda into the mix.

The 22-year-old midfielder looked impressive on the ball as he earned his seventh cap, showing invention and eagerness, as well as poise beyond his years.

Afterwards he played it cool, but inwardly he must have been delighted with his display in his first competitive start.

"I felt really good actually, obviously playing in a different role in central midfield as well, but I had the freedom to go wide as well.

"But more importantly we got the three points," he said.

O'Dowda will hope he has pressed his claim for a run against Chris Colemen's men on Monday but won't be taking anything for granted.

"Yeah of course I'd like to be involved, but obviously we've got James McClean and Robbie Brady coming back (from suspension), so that will be a good boost for the team," he said.

David Meyler, skipper for the night, led by example with another wholehearted, intelligent show in the midfield.

"I've got to work hard and play well at club level and play well here. I've got to train to my maximum the whole time because I can't take anything for granted.

"That's just the way it is, and there's great competition. We're all fighting for a place because every one of us wants to play," said Meyler.

Irish Independent

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