Ireland – 3 Scotland – 0
Turns out 13 is a lucky number after all, at least for Ireland international Jayson Molumby.
On 12 occasions he had played for the Republic’s senior side, and on 12 occasions he had finished the game without that sweet taste of victory: seven defeats and five draws, and the team didn’t even score a goal in his first five appearances.
So Saturday’s 3-0 win at home to Scotland could not only be a turning point for Stephen Kenny’s side, but also for his own Ireland career, a hint of better things to come after times of struggle.
Kenny was one of the big winners from the victory, but individuals on the field also came away with spirits high and reputations enhanced. Alan Browne (20 minutes), Troy Parrott (28) and Michael Obafemi (51) got the goals, with Shane Duffy and Obafemi claiming assists for the first and second goals.
However, it was a superb tackle in the heart of midfield from Molumby, setting up the stage for that stunning third goal from Obafemi, which said a lot about Ireland and indeed about the West Brom man.
The Irish central midfield was off-colour in Armenia and outplayed at home to Ukraine, but with Molumby at the heart of things Ireland dominated that sector.
Scotland would have done their homework and expected more of the same from Ireland in midfield, the Scots looking to central men Callum McGregor and Scott McTominay to boss that area.
An early tackle from Jason Knight on McTominay was a sign of intent, and Browne – asked to handle Andrew Robertson, who Caoimhín Kelleher called “the best left-back in world football” – nicked that first goal.
Instead of playing through the middle, as Serhiy Sydorchuk and Mykola Shaparenko did in midweek, Scotland had to search for a route to goal by forcing errors from the Irish back line, with John McGinn almost profiting from some miscommunication between Kelleher and Shane Duffy early in the first half.
McTominay and McGregor have 80 caps between them and play regularly in Europe with their clubs, while Molumby (13 caps) and Derby man Knight (14 caps) feed off a diet of Championship football and are still learning – learning how to play and, in the case of Molumby, learning how to win.
For him, Saturday was redemption for a poor showing by the team away to Armenia and at home to Ukraine, games he watched from the bench as he awaited his chance.
“We know, we’re not stupid, it wasn’t good enough, Armenia especially, I think to a man it wasn’t good enough,” Molumby said.
“Maybe we picked up a bit better against Ukraine, more intensity. The first 20 against Ukraine the intensity was good, maybe the quality was missing. But tonight it just clicked, to a man we gave 100pc. I thought we deserved a win.
“The team fought for every single ball tonight and that was probably the difference. We don’t want Scotland coming here and thinking they can walk all over us in the Aviva.
“Absolutely not. We have our own dreams and ambitions and we want to put it up to anybody.
“I think it was just the intensity, the passion, the commitment was there for everyone, the staff work tirelessly behind the scenes.
“It’s been a bit doom and gloom around the camp, but there are some amazing people behind the scenes, picking everyone up and making sure there are smiles on the lads faces, so it is a credit to them as well,” he added, with the Irish midfield benefiting from a tweaked shape.
“I think they [Kenny’s staff] just realised maybe switch it up and go for an extra man to give us a bit more protection in midfield. Me and Knighty there, we were fully committed, a lot of energy between us and we went out there and caused havoc.”
The Waterford man has needed patience with Ireland, as he was an unused sub for the previous four games, including the two March friendlies where he travelled and didn’t see any game time, and Saturday was the first time in eight competitive games that he started.
“Look, the gaffer has been amazing for me,” he said of Kenny. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, with the 21s and calling me up and giving me an international debut. And then I was coming in and the midfielders were playing well, Jeff, Josh, Conor, Browney.
“We got good results against Belgium and Portugal, so that obviously impacts that. You have to be patient. I was happy to get my chance.”
While compatriots like Conor Hourihane and Cyrus Christie assess their futures as free agents this summer, Molumby has his own path to follow, a permanent move to West Brom from Brighton a done deal after a loan spell.
“It was not a good season for the Baggies, a case of must do better next term. It was disappointing for the entire club. We have high expectations at West Brom, the first being a Championship club that expects to achieve big things.
“Overall I thought I did decent. When I played, I did alright. You need a run of games and I got that towards the end of the season.
“I started to feel my performances showed that. I was happy with my end to the season but overall as a club we have to do better.”