Póg Mo Goal’s no-holds-barred player ratings
THERE was an element of the surreal about the end of the game against Scotland. Ok, it was a nothing tournament but with a trophy for the victors there was something dream-like about the paraphernalia of the presentation ceremony being erected in the Aviva Stadium. Robbie Keane looked almost bemused when he raised the Nations Cup aloft but there was a genuine outpouring of pride from the stands, even if it was on on a smaller, non-consequential scale.
We can only hope that the togetherness shown by the Irish squad and their enjoyment of the moment might stir a desire in them to achieve something of real significance and take control of their European Championship destiny.
There was also something genuine about the celebrations of the Irish players in front of their own fans. Going by the comments afterwards, this may have a galvanising effect on the squad, some of whom have voiced their own disapproval of the disrespect shown to the shirt in recent days.
Even if the trophy meant nothing, it was disheartening to see some of those who made up the sparse crowd at the Aviva leaving before the trophy ceremony. Commitment goes both ways. The Irish team have a long way to go to show if this win inspires them to much greater heights.
Shay makes remarkably few mistakes for a goalkeeper. He rarely seems to fumble a shot and for someone who has spent the entire season on the bench, he is as sharp as ever. His save in the first half was world-class and he didn’t put a foot wrong despite being the much busier of the two stoppers. Still, why were Darren Randolph or David Forde not given a run-out? Should the need arise and they are called into action in Skopje next week, they have virtually no experience playing with this Irish side.
His best performance for Ireland? McShane made Keane’s goal with a superb break from the back. He covered every blade of grass across the defensive line and took on the leader’s role. Was switched to centre-back in the second half and did little wrong. Is he a player on form ahead of a big week for Ireland?
Looked far more comfortable this time in the central role at the back. Two games there and a week spent training in the position paid off as he also took on the responsibility of marshalling the defence.
O’Dea has done well whenever he has been called upon for Ireland. He partnered effectively with Kelly for the most part. There were nervy moments too but you feel he could do a job alongside O’Shea or Dunne if needed. And that opportunity may come next week with a vacancy in the back-line should St Ledger remain ruled out.
Another impressive display. Ward has to be a serious contender for the left-back position now. But with O’Shea to come into the back-line, Trap may opt for familiarity and, in that case, Ward is likely to lose out to Kilbane.
There wasn’t a hell of a lot of attacking play coming down his flank in the first half. He offered that physical bite throughout but Ireland created precious few opportunities and the supply was minimal from Lawrence.
He’s all-action as always but on this occasion, like Lawrence, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of end results. Ireland couldn’t muster a sustained level of attack but Hunt is a potent threat from crosses. He also pays scant regard to reputations, standing up to anyone who has a go at him. We need that fire and heart and Hunt epitomises the fight in the team. However, we also need a bit more ability than he delivered on this showing.
Watching the Irish midfield can be frustrating because whoever seems to play there can disrupt the opposition but they don’t orchestrate an enormous amount. Andrews is a more imposing presence but he and Fahey do have to take the responsibility for Ireland’s attacking play and it was lacking against a limited Scottish team
Fahey is a more technical operator with a footballing brain. He also offers much in terms of hassling and harrying but, like Andrews, there wasn’t a great deal of imagination in the Irish attack. Our central pairing can regain possession and feed the flanks but invariably it leads to poor crosses or the striking pair coming up with nothing so we need more imagination in midfield. Fahey is our best option for creativity when James McCarthy’s future is in doubt.
A somewhat flaccid display, with little penetration from Cox…Too much? Cox is a stocky fella. He’s quick and bright and always looking to take up good positions. But, while he and Keane flitted about to cause the Scots headaches, they had a partnership built on illusion. Flicks and triangular movement between the pair would have looked great had they come off, but they never did. There’s only so many times you can try something and put your hands to your head saying ‘Ooh, it almost worked’. It’s not enough but he has started brightly in his Irish career and shows potential.
Keane is definitely a different player to the one earlier in the season. Arguably he is different even to the player who was missing vital chances for West Ham in the last games of the Premier League.
He is sharp in an Irish shirt and equalling Bobby Charlton’s international haul was clearly a milestone for him. He is hitting form at a crucial point for Ireland. And that may be a welcome enough reason for the Nations Cup exercise.
When a midfielder is introduced for Ireland, they can be conspicuous by their anonymity. But when you bring on a defender like Foley and barely notice – he slots in with ease, up with the pace of the game and assisting the Irish back-line’s comfortable enough handling of the Scots -you know he is of international calibre. A novice in the squad but he is far from out of place. Another accomplished cameo.
Like Foley he looks comfortable in the international arena. Did he add to Ireland’s attack against Scotland? Yes, but without setting the world alight. But there’s only so much you can do when you feed the forwards and they constantly lose possession. He did enough in the last outing to force his way into the team. McGeady will play. Duff is out so will it be Lawrence or Coleman. Over to you Trap.
Wasn’t on long but he is down the pecking order when it comes to wingers. Again he slotted into the pace but without any real creative spark like Duff or McGeady.
There are many positives to be taken from Ireland’s Nations Cup performances.
It’s a friendly tournament but there was a trophy up for grabs and our side came out on top. We had three clean sheets and scored some good goals against opposition that were no great shakes.
So why are we suddenly getting nervous about going to Macedonia to play another poor side? The reason is that when the qualifiers resume, the Irish team get nervy. A side playing well, creating a bucket-load of chances with in-form players would be relishing the task in Skopje.
Instead, Trapattoni’s Ireland continue to struggle to carve out chances and that has to be a worry no matter who you’re playing.
There are also selection headaches for the Italian. Some like Ward and Coleman have given him reason to ponder. History suggests both the manager and the team will revert to over-caution. And that spells danger for the Nations Cup champions.