Póg Mo Goal’s no-holds-barred player ratings
HAD Ireland equalised to make it 3-3 at the Aviva Stadium against Uruguay, they would have been full value for the draw. Playing with an abandon that was sorely missed on Saturday, a mix of the naivety but confidence of youth, and the excessive enthusiasm of those out to impress, saw an Irish side produce ambitious football that almost came up trumps.
Granted all three of Uruguay’s goals were a result of some tactically incorrect choices and over-eager ambition but an Irish outfit playing with freedom, at times dominated a technically superior and more skilful South-American opponent. It was in marked contrast to the Republic’s ‘first-choice’ that were made to look like mugs against what should still be considered minnows in the form of Macedonia.
Like the Irish training tops on the players in the line-up for the anthems, some of the team were a little off-colour. Yet the sum of their parts were worthy of at least a draw and they deserve to take the plaudits.
We now have a goalkeeper worthy of deputising for Shay Given should the need arise. He looks at ease in the international arena. Dropped one ball in the second half but recovered well and made a superb double-stop to keep Ireland in the game.
Was caught out of position on several occasions, most notably for the second goal. Was guilty of tucking in too deep but that has to be chalked down to a central defence that didn’t offer any instruction owing to a lack of real experience in a vital position.
Revelled in the role of captain but we badly missed a Richard Dunne figure at centre-back to steady the ship. Having said that, Uruguay were mainly restricted to long-range efforts and all three of their goals could have been cut out higher up the pitch. Kelly rose to his task admirably.
Similar to Saturday, he did a lot of things very well. He didn’t take control of proceedings at the back but that could hardly be expected from someone who only made his competitive début three days earlier. O’Dea made some telling interceptions and could hardly be dismissed as a replacement of St Ledger for example.
In truth, Clark found things a little tough going. He was caught for pace on a number of occasions but they were largely a result of mistakes by the midfield. He has inherited the Irish trait of smacking the ball into no-man’s land but, particularly in the first half, he looked to link up with midfield and the wings with some neat triangular passes. He is a technically superior footballer to Kevin Kilbane and he deserves to retain his place.
Lawrence is a workhorse. He delivered a superb ball for Long’s equaliser and has that type of weapon in his armoury. However, he doesn’t possess the ability to take on a man like Duff or McGeady and for that reason, he won’t start the future qualifiers.
Fahey is a tidy footballer who is not afraid to try things. Unfortunately his ambitious cross-field ball lead directly to the third Uruguay goal though Lawrence was guilty of standing still instead of moving onto the ball. Regardless, Fahey should be commended for having the confidence to spray the ball about. He also got in some good shooting positions and is always looking to unlock the defence, something that only comes as an after-thought to his peers in the Irish centre. Stuck his penalty away brilliantly.
Like his team-mates, Green deserves the plaudits for orchestrating a performance that saw Ireland dominate at times against a superior footballing team. Green is a lower-level Championship footballer and chasing World Cup semi-finalists he was often two yards behind the pace of the game. Yet he was a determined and committed battler. He improved as the game wore on, boosted by Giovanni Trapattoni’s trust in letting him complete 90 minutes. More than that, Green contributed greatly to Ireland’s pursuit of a late equaliser and popped up in threatening attacking positions which cannot often be said about the likes of Whelan and Gibson.
Keogh worked tirelessly in a defensive capacity often popping up to send a relieving pass back to the defence. He linked well with his back-four early in the game and offered a genuine threat lurking around the penalty-box. He missed an absolute sitter with a header in the second half and would have deserved to get on the score-sheet but, like Lawrence, he doesn’t offer the ability to skin a player like Duff and Ireland cannot afford to deploy a lower league player in what is our chief outlet for attack.
To be truthful, McCarthy was lost at times. Yet he was picked by the manager to operate behind the lone striker and he stuck to his remit. It is an indictment of Ireland’s lack of creativity in midfield whenever Robbie Keane is forced to retreat to the centre to pick up the ball. McCarthy did not do this and that is to be commended in many respects. For it you are going to play someone in behind the forward, he has to be given the football from midfield. Neither Fahey nor Green offered that type of supply to McCarthy. Having said that, he won the penalty at the start of the second half and in only his third game for Ireland, the time will come for the Wigan man.
A man-of-the-match performance from Tipperary’s finest. Long was an able apprentice in the Kevin Doyle school of giving your all for your country. He is a dynamo up front and his equalising goal was a superb header. Equally on the deck, Long was a constant menace.
Replaced Fahey but failed to really ignite. Had one shot that was way off target. Perhaps he would have benefited from having Fahey alongside him. Still he was at the heart of Ireland’s late push for an equaliser.
Offered a physical presence to the defence and slotted in well to the pace of the game as Ireland pushed for the leveller.
For a player on form, the usual slant is that he was not on long enough to be rated. But Stokes is a striker who was introduced when Ireland were pressing hard for a late goal and he never really figured. It would be unfair to be overly critical but he wasn’t up to the tempo of Ireland’s late surge.
Had he been in tune with the late surge of the game, Treacy could have been in a scoring position before he was crowded out in the Uruguay penalty area. Showed some nice touches and neat passing but couldn’t stamp his mark.
Brimming with confidence after Saturday’s performance McGeady showed fantastic footwork. He looked to take on his opponent at every opportunity. His quick feet and trickery offered Ireland a new outlet. It was a pity he wasn’t introduced earlier.
Although it was a friendly, you can’t help thinking that if Ireland had played like this against Macedonia we would have made things far easier for ourselves. The reason we put in that kind of display was because the players picked had their own points to prove. They were hungry to impress and many of them were coming in with confident club form such as Clark, Long, Foley, and Westwood. Not everything the Irish tried came off, and Uruguay possessed the killer quality to punish mistakes. Yet, Ireland would have deserved a third goal and draw at worst. Against Macedonia on Saturday, our supposed strongest team struggled to put away a poor side. On Tuesday, an Irish side over-flowing with endeavour almost succeeded in overturning a vastly superior side to the one in our Euro qualifying group. Giovanni Trapattoni has plenty of food for thought as the Republic has a new wave of stars with a taste for international football, and they relished it.