Tuesday 20 March 2018

Duffy adamant 'goal' should have stood as Ireland rue ref's decisions

Duffy: Unhappy. Photo: Sportsfile
Duffy: Unhappy. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Blessed are we with goalkeepers and defenders.

Goalscoring forwards, creative midfielders not so much, with the honourable exception of Wes Hoolahan.

But when it comes to sweating blood for the cause, Republic of Ireland soccer players do it in spades.

Martin O'Neill's men had the thronged masses hanging out of their seats at a packed Aviva Stadium, living on their nerves until the closing minutes.

No matter.

The supporters kept the faith, despite the scrappy fare presented to them in the first half, as they showed by the full-throated roars they emitted in support of the team.

And eventually, the ball landed in the Austrian net, once for real, the other disallowed, and the unbeaten run through Group D survives - but it was a close call.

Jon Walters, the saviour of the day with his thunderous strike to score in the 85th minute, was not happy with the result, and argued that Shane Duffy's headed effort should not have been disallowed.

"We were disappointed with how we started and to go 1-0 down," said the Stoke City man.

"But then, we should have come out with the win, we should have been allowed that goal and possibly a penalty.

"That's the sort of tempo we like - the second half is how we want to play. We didn't win but we're still in it, it's in our hands.

Nothing comes easy to this group of players.

The manager makes it all the more interesting when he springs a surprise such as giving Burnley's Kevin Long a competitive debut against all expectations.

No disrespect to Long, but with veteran John O'Shea and experienced Richard Keogh in the squad, was this the time to pair a newcomer with Shane Duffy, earning his 11th cap, in a game of such importance?

Turned out, the manager did okay on this one.

Long adds to the mix of defenders available to him from this game forward.

The Austrian goal by Martin Hinteregger represented a collective failure, and typified the mental sluggishness of the team as a whole in that first half.

When the dust settles, Long will have to pinch himself.

A season that was marred by injury has ended with his call-up to the Irish squad, then caps against Mexico and Uruguay, and finally a World Cup qualifier appearance.

He did enough to show he will be an asset at both ends of the pitch.

Long and Duffy did some good defensive work. They also got away with a couple of potential embarrassments, and competed strongly in the Austrian goal area for opportunities from free-kicks and corners.

Long permitted himself a moment of inner joy when Martin O'Neill announced his starting 11, and then had to quickly come back to earth.

Speaking of his emotions, the Corkman said: "Probably a bit of both. You're absolutely delighted to play a game in a massive fixture for your country.

"Then again, you've got to get your professional head on. You've got a game to focus on, so it's probably a bit of both."

Long and Duffy were equally complimentary of each other in terms of working out the responsibilities of the partnership.

Duffy said of the debutant: "He did brilliantly. He is a big guy, I thought he didnt put a foot wrong.

"For someone who has just come in, he was excellent. He covered me a couple of times to be fair… I am delighted with him."

The Brighton defender was not so delighted when the referee disallowed what looked like the winning goal in the 87th minute.

Duffy rose high to try and head the ball home from inside the opposition six-yard box.

The big fella from Derry got the ball but also sent Austrian defender Stefan Lainer tumbling into the back of the net

"I could see why he (ref) didn't give it, but I know it is not a foul," he insisted. "I have eyes on the ball the whole way.

"Anywhere else on the pitch it is not a foul, so I am not sure about that, but I could see why he didn't give it."

That said, Duffy was not prepared to hide behind blaming the referee for the Irish failure to capitalise on an Austrian side that came to Dublin shorn of some of their best talent.

"It is easy to look at the referee," he continued. "But you have to look at yourself a bit and in the first half we weren't at it, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

"That's where you have to look and not just blame the ref.

"There is no point, he is there to make decisions, some are right some are wrong.

"We could have been better in the first half.

"The manager just told us to get it up there, get it up there to the big boys, and they (Austria) couldn't handle it really."

Irish Independent

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