Monday 19 February 2018

'Why do we fall back like we're defending the Alamo after scoring' - Five things we learned from Ireland's World Cup exit

Republic of Ireland players, from left, Harry Arter, James McClean, Stephen Ward and Robbie Brady react to Denmark scoring a second goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match between Republic of Ireland and Denmark at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Republic of Ireland players, from left, Harry Arter, James McClean, Stephen Ward and Robbie Brady react to Denmark scoring a second goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match between Republic of Ireland and Denmark at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

John Brennan

Ireland crashed out of the World Cup play-off race with a comprehensive 5-1 loss to Denmark in Dublin. It's the end of the road for a number of Irish players but here's five things that we learned from Ireland's latest play-off loss:

1. It was the night Seamus Coleman’s absence for half the qualifying campaign finally caught up with Ireland.

Cyrus Christie had done well in previous matches. But in this World Cup play-off he was tormented by Pione Sisto of Celta Vigo from beginning to end. It’s hard to envisage Coleman letting that happen to him.

2. Why, oh why, as soon as Ireland score an international goal do we fall back as though we are defending  the Alamo?

For most of the 20 minutes after we scored, Denmark just owned the ball as Ireland’s players seemed almost afraid to put their foot on the sphere.

3. You have to take your chances in international football.

Daryl Murphy and James McClean were so close to making it 2-0 for Ireland. It didn’t happen and Ireland paid the harshest penalty.

Just as Denmark's Christian Eriksen would never have forgiven himself for his 57th minute miss had Ireland recovered.

4. There’ll never be a shortage of effort from any 11 Irish footballers.

But sometimes you need more than effort. You have to have the technique to match your opponents.

Both first-half goals came from the Danes ruthlessly exploiting two basic errors - not marking up at a short corner and Stephen Ward all too easily conceding possession.

5. That’s the end of the road for a generation of Irish footballers who will now never play at a World Cup.

Father Time has surely run out on John O’Shea, Glenn Whelan, Wes Hoolahan, Jon Walters and Daryl Murphy.

They’ll all retire from international football, leaving the younger ones, and some new players, to dream about playing for Ireland at Euro 2020 in the Aviva Stadium.

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