Sunday 18 November 2018

O'Brien's boys need scoring touch on big stage

Adam Idah of Republic of Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile
Adam Idah of Republic of Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

It might be timely that Denmark conceded three goals in Saturday's opener because Ireland will need to start scoring in today's meeting of the nations to get their European finals jaunt up and running.

Colin O'Brien's side had reached the showpiece in England by excelling in the scoring stakes, notching 18 goals in six qualifiers, but the difficulty Ireland discover when they step up to the finals stage was once again apparent at the weekend.

They were a goal behind to Belgium at the break, taking another 15 minutes for their first effort on target to materialise, yet having spurned a couple of openings to level, they were then punished for slack marking with another goal in a 2-0 defeat.

That blank extended Ireland's record to a meagre return of two goals in eight matches over the last three appearances at the annual tournament.

Fine margins are an occupational hazard at international level but it would be worrying, not just for these finals, if the pattern isn't arrested.

Ireland and Denmark, who meet at St George's Park (1.0), are both playing catch-up but O'Brien has history on his side when talking up the long game in these tournaments.

One win and three points were sufficient for his team to advance into the quarter-finals last year.

"There are still six points on offer and there are still two places available to get out of the group," insisted the Corkman.

"After creating many chances against Belgium, I'm sure we'll convert them if we do it again in the Denmark game."

The Danes twice let leads slip in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Apart from goalkeeper Andreas Sondergaard of Wolves, all of their squad are home based but sufficiently talented to have beaten France along their qualifying trail.

Bosnia exposed their flaws at the weekend and Ireland, should they provide Troy Parrott and Adam Idah with better service than Saturday, will have every opportunity of rectifying their paltry scoring record.

"Facing Belgium was a step up in pace compared to the qualifiers but I still think we played good football," reasoned Oisin McEntee, the Cavan-born defender recruited by Newcastle United last summer.

"We could have defended better and taken our chances so hopefully we can get some breaks against Denmark."

Ireland's remaining game will be against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Friday at the same venue.

After needing a result on the final day last year to squeeze into the knockout stages, today provides a window to keep their destiny within their own hands.

IRELAND (probable) - K Clarke (Shamrock Rovers); M Murphy (Stoke City), O McEntee (Newcastle Utd), N Collins (Stoke City), K Ledwidge (Southampton); J Knight (Derby County), B Coffey (Celtic); T Wright (Aston Villa), T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), C Thompson (Wolves); A Idah (Norwich City).

Irish Independent

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