O'Shea goes out on worthy high
Republic of Ireland 2 USA 1
Farewell and thanks to Josh. And good riddance to a World Cup season which ended prematurely for Martin O'Neill and the Republic of Ireland six long months ago.
At least the denouement against a young United States team, who will also be absent from the finals in Russia later this month, ended with a victory.
Featuring just three survivors from the Danish debacle, O'Neill's experimental side persevered to end their three-game losing streak and clinch a deserved last-gasp win. They might not be going to Russia, but the loyal Lansdowne regulars left content.
It was of course the night one of Ireland's most decorated players signed off and in the 34th minute of his 118th appearance for his country, John O'Shea said his goodbyes.
And as he waved farewell, and took in a deserved standing ovation, the famous 'Ole, Ole, Ole' chant was changed to 'O'Shea, O'Shea, O'Shea'. There were tears and high-fives around the Ireland bench as his name echoed round the stadium.
But it was Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke who earned the loudest cheer of the evening when he became the first League of Ireland player since Ray Treacy 40 years ago to score for his country.
His reward for the goal-line finish, when he planted Darragh Lenihan's low shot into the back of the net, was an immediate substitution. Like O'Shea, Burke departed to a rapturous ovation.
A very competitive friendly appeared to be heading for a draw but Alan Judge clinched Ireland's first win of the year, and his first international goal, with his first touch of the night.
When James McClean broke into the penalty area, he looked set to smash the ball goalward but sensing it was on the winger's notoriously weaker right foot, Judge sneaked ahead of him to bury his shot off Bill Hamid's fist and the underside of the crossbar.
Ireland went behind in the final minute of the first-half when they were caught out at an American free-kick played deep into the penalty area from the halfway line.
When the ball was headed back across the goal, keeper Colin Doyle remained rooted to his line while McClean and Jeff Hendrick were both static. O'Shea was absent by this stage and his presence might have made the difference. Striker Bobby Wood was far more alert and tapped the ball home unhindered.
The smattering of half-time jeers seemed harsh on an Ireland team which is still lacking in confidence after the World Cup exit, although they created more chances than their guests, who are managed by Robbie Keane's former LA Galaxy assistant manager Dave Sarachan.
Before they went behind, the home side squandered several good opportunities, summed up by Burke's 43rd minute free-kick. Bravely standing Hendrick aside, the striker's low left-footed shot hit the visitors' wall and he was then hurt desperately trying to win the ball back from Cameron Carter-Vickers.
There were more clear-cut chances too. McClean troubled Hamid with a firm 30-yard effort which floated wickedly in the air before the United States keeper managed to parry to safety. Hamid was also floundering in mid-air when Jon Walters teased a half-volley narrowly wide.
Seamus Coleman miscued a McClean cross with an uncharacteristically awful touch and Burke fired high into the Aviva crowd when he was through on goal.
And O'Shea had an early chance to add to his three Ireland goals when he advanced into the American area for the first corner of the game after Carter-Vickers had blocked a Walters effort at the near post.
The former Sunderland and Manchester United defender got a faint glance on Hendrick's teasing cross but the ball flew across goal and out of touch. It set the tone for a frustrating first-half for the home side.
Ireland's stand-in keeper Doyle was only called upon to make one save when he felt the full force of Tim Weah's fierce shot in the 75th minute, saving his effort with his knee. Weah, the son of Liberian legend George, had also wasted their best opportunity with another wild shot off target 10 minutes earlier.
The endless stream of second-half substitutions threatened to ruin the game but two men came off the bench to put the ball in the net.
O'Shea's replacement Lenihan had a header ruled out for offside but Judge was not to be denied his moment in the final minute.
HOW IRELAND PLAYERS RATED
Colin Doyle: Last night marks three decent outings in goal for Doyle of late. He’ll stay in the squad next season but Darren Randolph will surely return as Ireland’s No 1. 7
Seamus Coleman: After only playing a quarter of the season, Coleman’s enthusiasm for the shirt is infectious. He worked hard and fitted into the experimental system easily. 6
John O’Shea: Got a half an hour in which to say goodbye and so ended one of the finest Irish international careers. What a pity he never got to play in a World Cup. 6
Shane Duffy: A last game of a fine season for Duffy who has been a stalwart at centre-half for Ireland in the campaign now ended. 7
Kevin Long: Another decent effort from Long, who is one of those players the manager has faith in. Like Duffy, he will be annoyed not to have won the header that led to the USA goal. 6
James McClean: His attacking instincts have to be curbed a bit when McClean is asked to be a wing-back. He got up and down on the left side to good effect. 7
Declan Rice: Yet another fine effort in his third cap. It seems as though Rice is going to be a building block in the a new Irish team for the next decade. 8
Jeff Hendrick: Didn’t look fully fit and a long way from the player who was so good at Euro 2016. He’ll have better outings in a green shirt. 6
Callum O’Dowda: Always looking to feint or pass or make a move that will outwit a defender. O’Dowda might be the closest thing we’ll have to a new Wes Hoolahan. 7
Graham Burke: Didn’t look out of place at all. Burke worked hard and always showed for the ball. And he got a goal, albeit a tap-in, that he’ll remember forever. 8
Jon Walters: Looked understandably rusty after missing so much of this season with Burnley. Worked hard as always. 6
Darragh Lenihan for O’Shea (33mins): Had a good hour playing in defence and got in the shot that led to Burke’s goal. 7
Daryl Horgan for Burke (61mins): Always lively and willing in attack after an up-and-down club season. 7
Enda Stevens for Duffy (78)
Harry Arter for Hendrick (82)
Alan Judge for O’Dowda (88)
Took his goal well just moments after his introduction
Sunday Indo Sport