Talking points: McGoldrick to the rescue, relentless Hendrick and Euro 2020 dream still alive
Here are the main talking points from Ireland's dramatic 1-1 draw with Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium.
1. David McGoldrick to the rescue
He has been the shining star of Mick McCarthy’s second spell as Ireland manager and now David McGoldrick has a golden goal to add to his growing reputation as Ireland’s striking talisman.
On a night when he lacked quality service to build on his solid start to the season with Sheffield United, ‘Didzy’ made the most of a good quality ball into the box five minutes from time to claim what may prove to be a crucial point for Ireland and it was just reward for his gutsy display.
There were flashbacks to McGoldrick’s performance against Georgia earlier this year after Robinson was taken off after 58 minutes, with his willingness to chase apparently hopeless causes making him a valuable member of McCarthy’s line-up.
His fitness and enthusiasm were impressive, despite his lack of scoring openings was rewarded, as he scored the Ireland leveller, with the roar around the Aviva Stadium as loud as any since Shane Long’s famous winner against Germany in a Euro 2016 qualifier almost four years ago.
As he did against Georgia in March, McGoldrick received another standing ovation from the Ireland fans as he left the field and it was more than deserved once more.
2. Collective effort needed to solve scoring issues
Despite his fine goal in this game, Ireland’s enduring goal-scoring issue is unlikely to be solved by McGoldrick alone.
The Sheffield United man had a chance to set-up his Blades team-mate Callum Robinson for the opening goal after a powerful burst forward on the stroke of half-time, but his final ball into the box lacked precision in a moment that highlighted the lack of punch in the Ireland forward line.
Ireland’s failure to get in behind the Switzerland defence would have disappointed the Ireland management team, with James McClean not providing the balls into the box McGoldrick could have thrived on.
In addition, Ireland tend to show a lack of composure when they get into attacking positions and that is an area McCarthy and particularly his assistant Robbie Keane could work.
3. Hendrick on a mission
Jeff Hendrick’s place in the Ireland team had been called into questioned ahead of his vital qualifier and it was clear from the first whistle that he wanted to silence his doubters.
With Ireland manager Mick McCarthy expressing his desire to select players who are playing regular football at club level, Hendrick appreciated he needed to make his mark in this qualifier and his eagerness to snap into tackles confirmed his intentions.
A fine piece of play nearly sent James McClean in on goal after 13 minutes and while his promise ultimately failed to produce dividends, Hendrick’s commitment to the cause would have pleased manager McCarthy.
4. Optimism maintained
Take yourself back to September last year and we had all just lived through the Roy Keane/Harry Arter/Jonathan Walters media storm, with performances on the pitch adding to the gloom as a 4-1 defeat in Wales became a low point of Martin O’Neill’s reign as Ireland manager.
The mood at the Aviva Stadium for subsequent games against Denmark, Wales and Northern Ireland confirmed an era was coming to an end, yet the roar that greeted the finale of the national anthems for this Group D Euro 2020 qualifier cemented the belief that this is an Ireland team breathing hope into the hearts of the nation’s soccer fans.
The improved mood off the pitch is matched by more bullish performances from Ireland’s players on it, with the crowd responding to flashes of inspiration from Hendrick and David McGoldrick in a first half that injected the home crowd with enthusiasm, despite Switzerland’s dominant possession statistics.
While Ireland rarely looked like scoring until McGoldrick’s equaliser, the point that was within reach as the game entered the final quarter was enough to retain the optimism of a bumper crowd as the Euro 2020 dream lives on.
5. The Swiss threat
This draw keeps Ireland’s momentum flowing in their mission to claim one of the top two positions in Group D and belief that they can claim a positive result from the return game in Geneva in October should also have been fuelled by this contest.
While Switzerland clearly had the better side over the course of the game, their lack of cutting edge was in evidence for large portions of the game, with the absence of Liverpool playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri clearly affecting their attacking threat.
Their half chances were spurned, but they highlighted their ability by producing the one classy passing movement of the game that led to their opening goal.
If Ireland need a 0-0 draw to enhance their qualification hopes by the time they get to their penultimate qualifier, they can glean some hope from this Swiss performance.