State of Play: Republic of Ireland 5 Northern Ireland 0

Póg Mo Goal’s no-holds-barred player ratings

For reasons best known to themselves, certain players did not report for duty for the Republic of Ireland this week. Those who claim injuries should normally be given the benefit of the doubt but to hell with that. Since Stephen Ireland decided to bury his perfectly-alive grannies, we no longer automatically believe the excuses of players who withdraw from the Irish squad. That is an indictment of the attitude of the modern day footballer. Once upon a time we thought Irish players were different. The Kevin Doyles and Shane Longs were normal lads who made their way from real football in the League of Ireland to the big time but didn’t forget those roots. We were naïve. And now when a club sends a medical scan to Dublin, we have to ask for a second opinion. For shame.

John Giles wrote in his autobiography of players lining out for their clubs on Saturday before racing for a ferry to be in Dalymount Park for Ireland the next day. In 2011, players who can’t hold down starting places pull out of appearing for their country because they are tired. Let’s do as Marco Tardelli has said, and switch attention to those who turned up.

Shay Given

Northern Ireland’s second-string is vastly inferior to ours. A team including teenagers left Given largely as a spectator. Shay will have to content himself with training to dust off the cobwebs of last season.

Paul McShane

His passing is not up to standard and he is prone to too many errors. But he was solid enough defensively, even popping up in a few attacking moves in the second half to the delight of the crowd.

Stephen Kelly

Again playing in an unfamiliar position. Largely untroubled but Northern Ireland opened brightly and the defence was a little at sea for 15 minutes.

Damien Delaney

Offers a physical presence but hardly a rock of composure when the North had their best spell at the beginning. Again he needs an experienced head alongside him but Delaney’s distribution is decent.

Stephen Ward

A fine début for the Wolves man. Has played in a striker’s role at Bohs and Mick McCarthy has also used him in a similar position for the Molinuex outfit. Marked his first appearance with a goal and that attacking nature could prove a welcome addition. Now in contention for the left-back spot with Ciaran Clark if Trap finally acknowledges that Kilbane’s time is up.

Seamus Coleman

An excellent display and an improvement on his first outings in a green shirt. Coleman is a real attacking threat and looks willing to take players on. He may lose out because of McGeady’s stellar performance against Macedonia but the Scot took far too long in his Irish career to finally live up to the hype and that poses a question on whether he is the real deal. His club displays prove that Coleman is.

Kevin Foley

Not his natural position but he did well in his adapted role given that Northern Ireland were largely a pushover. Good players should show their ability against poor opposition, no matter where they line out, and Foley did that.

Keith Andrews

Andrews is not popular with some Blackburn fans but he offers something different to the clones Gibson, Whelan, and Green. He is more combative but more constructive in attack. Basically he’s not as anonymous as the other three but that’s hardly a glowing endorsement.

Keith Treacy

Again, a decent showing but he’s not a winger in the mould of Duff. However, he quickly developed an understanding with Ward and was always looking to thread threatening balls into the North’s danger area

Simon Cox

Scored on his début and it was superbly taken, making space and not just shooting at the first sight of goal. He linked up really well with Keane and it will be interesting to see if they can prosper together given the opportunity. He’s a Premier League regular, but he hasn’t scored too often unlike Jon Walters for example

Robbie Keane

It might be a new haircut but he looks trim and fit and even though his spell at West Ham wasn’t exactly covered in glory, Robbie looks lively in a green shirt lately. Bagged two last night. His first was a glorious finish and his penalty was confidently dispatched. Why, oh why, did Trap take him off.? He was one goal off Bobby Charlton’s international tally. Keane will get there which is remarkable that an Irishman should overhaul one of the greats from the supposed home of the game.

David Forde

Yet another from the quite astonishing League of Ireland production line of recent internationals. The ex-Galway United and Derry City shot-stopper replaced Given but given the paucity of the opposition and their reduction to ten men, Forde will hardly have an easier game.

Liam Lawrence

Replaced Seamus Coleman which again was a surprise from Trap. Surely he needs to see more of the Everton man in action. He knows well what Lawrence has to offer and it was more of the same last night. Heart, endeavour, and good crosses. It’s limited but reliable and he’s not a bad option to have off the bench.

Andy Keogh

Trap has a soft spot for him. Like Lawrence he has a limited impact and didn’t do a hell of a lot when Ireland were battering poor opponents with a man down. Enough said really.

Stephen Hunt

Rambo is exactly that, all action and all heart. He revelled in his return to the green shirt and hit the post with a superb effort. He lifts the crowd and he gives it his all.

If only a few more of our lads had the same attitude.

Conclusion:

Last night’s exercise won’t teach us much. But the emergence of Ward and Cox is a bonus. That’s what these games are for. It’s amazing that others who have no real right to claim a place in the starting line-up without working for it see fit to pull out for flimsy reasons. Paul McGrath played for Ireland with banjaxed knees and performed like the greatest player in the world. At least when Paul was tired, we knew why. Playing for Ireland, even if no one shows up to watch, is a privilege. Trapattoni knows that and if he decides others no longer deserve his attention, he might just be right.

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