Wednesday 19 June 2019

Maximum points but minimum quality from poor Ireland

Ireland 2-0 Gibraltar

McCarthy gets his 'scrappy win' but Boys in Green resemble lost boys

David McGoldrick takes a shot which is deflected into the goal by Joseph Chipolina of Gibraltar during last night's Euro 2020 qualifier. Photo: SEB DALY/SPORTSFILE.
David McGoldrick takes a shot which is deflected into the goal by Joseph Chipolina of Gibraltar during last night's Euro 2020 qualifier. Photo: SEB DALY/SPORTSFILE.

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Mick McCarthy almost got one thing right in his pre-match press conference. If he had to settle for a scrappy 1-0 win at home to Gibraltar with a goal going in "off someone's backside" he would take that.

The Ireland boss nearly got that last night, only for an injury-time header from Robbie Brady to make the scoreline a bit more respectable.

Seán Maguire in action against Gibraltar's Roy Chipolina. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Seán Maguire in action against Gibraltar's Roy Chipolina. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

But for long spells this was a shallow, unconvincing performance. Gibraltar frustrated Ireland, as we knew they would do, that's what Gibraltar do. When a so-called bigger nation plays against the likes of Gibraltar the challenge is to deal with the bus that's parked in front of them - as these players do on a regular basis at club level against inferior opposition.

But the home side shirked that challenge last night, the Boys in Green looking like lost boys for long spells, lacking the midfield nous and skill to put away a side who had conceded seven goals in their last two away games. McCarthy will feel that any sniping today is crass, as his team are on top of the table in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, five points clear of Denmark and with their next game at home.

Yet the manager will need to coax more from his players, especially in midfield, if they are to stay in contention for qualification as days like this will not be good enough, and while they will admire the Irish spirit, the Danes and the Swiss will see little to fear from Ireland.

Denmark beating Georgia 5-1 last night, but the fact that the Danes have conceded in all three group games will be of some small comfort to McCarthy.

Mick McCarthy gestures during the match. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy gestures during the match. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile


There was a flatness about the night, both the Irish crowd and the players lacking verve. The Ireland squad had met up 22 days ago and while they had some days off in that time, allowing them to see family or catch up with pursuits like watching Donegal play Tyrone (Seamus Coleman) or the Shamrock Rovers-Derry City match (James McClean, Shane Duffy).

Maybe they were fed up of the sight of each other, maybe they were just fed up with football so we can only hope that once qualification business resumes in September, they will be refreshed, revitalised and refocused but a repeat of last night will be nowhere good enough at home to Switzerland.

The last time Ireland hosted Gibraltar, they were 3-0 up after just 18 minutes. Here, last night, the home supporters had to wait until the 29th minute for a goal, but with that came not much satisfaction. The goal was not even scored by an Irish player as David McGoldrick's shot took a deflection off Joseph Chipolina.

The stadium announcer in Lansdowne Road credited the goal to the Irish No 9 but it was indeed an own goal, as McGoldrick's shot would have sailed wide only for the intervention of veteran Chipolina.

McGoldrick was named as Ireland's man of the match for a second successive home tie, but the Sheffield United striker admitted he was left frustrated as his wait for a first international goal continues.

"All strikers are judged on goals and I wanted to get one in this game," he said. "I'm getting chances and they are just not going my way, but I have to keep going. I'd love to stand here with a goal for Ireland on my CV, but it wasn't to be."

Shane Duffy has proved to be Ireland's biggest goal threat and in the early stages last night it seemed as if the big Derry man was keen to add to his tally of international goals, a headed effort from the Brighton defender going just over the bar as early as the first minute. After 10, Duffy took a chance with a shot from long distance, but there was not the accuracy needed to trouble Kyle Godwin in the Gibraltar goal.

Darren Randolph pulled off a vital save when the sides met in Gibraltar back in March, preventing the minnows from taking the lead in a game which Ireland went on to win 1-0, but the Middlesbrough keeper was a spectator last night, Gibraltar getting within sight of his goal just once in the first half when Tjay Be Barr was well wide with a shot.

If the away side were lacking an attacking threat, the home team didn't possess a particularly telling one, Scott Hogan sending a glancing header wide on 23 minutes, from a cross by Callum Robinson.

Ireland finally got the lead on 29 minutes, though. Robinson's through-ball created some space for Seamus Coleman, his cross fell for McGoldrick and his shot was helped in thanks to that deflection from Chipolina.

With 15 minutes still to play, and Gibraltar's resistance broken, that was Ireland's chance to turn the screw and chip in with more goals, but they lacked the verve needed and Godwin remained untroubled, though Robinson went close with a backheel just before the end of the first half, his effort sent out for a corner.

"Maybe we were trying to force it too much," said captain Seamus Coleman. "We're a bit disappointed with the way we performed. We'd like to have been better at times, but we won.

"We just tried to score with every attack instead of being patient and breaking them down. We knew it would be a difficult game, but we could have been better."

It was one of those nights when just about everything seemed off. Even the stadium announcer was having an off-night, as he introduced the teams as they back out for the second half by saying "Let's welcome the Republic of Ireland and Georgia ... I mean Gibraltar".

The second half was more of the same, possession held for long spells by Ireland but little end product.

In injury time, substitute Brady popped up with a header from McClean's cross to finish on a high.

"I was looking forward to getting back and playing a home game. I didn't manage to start, I was delighted to come on a make a difference," said Brady.

"It's been a while since I scored and it's been a frustrating year. Hopefully it'll be a good one next year ."

Indeed, Ireland need to be bigger, better, faster, stronger if Euro 2020 is not to pass this time by.

Irish Independent

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