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Here’s how we rated the Irish players as they faced a strong Welsh side
Stephen Kenny’s reign had not gone to plan prior to facing Wales. Having failed to pick up a win against Finland, Bulgaria and Slovakia, some Irish fans had begun doubting his credentials already. Kenny was afforded no favours after no less than 5 players were sidelined due to a positive test in the Irish camp. Combine this with the other 4 players out of contention and Ireland would have a matchday squad of just 18 players. The circumstances surrounding the Ireland camp and Aaron Ramsey’s return meant that Wales were the firm bookies favourite. Despite this, Ireland produced an impressive performance in which they controlled possession and produced some tidy attacking moves.
Although it was 0-0, it wasn’t a drab affair. Both teams played good football at times without creating too many chances. Stephen Kenny will no doubt be pleased by the performance, especially given the circumstances surrounding the match.
As things stand, Kenny’s men are currently third in the Nations League table, but a win for Bulgaria against Finland would push Ireland to the bottom of the table. The campaign is far from over with three further games still yet to be played, though. It looks like Wales will finish as group winners, but Ireland could still finish in a respectable position given results go their way. They will be hoping to close out the international break with a win against Finland on Wednesday.
Here are our player ratings from tonight’s performance:
IRISH PLAYER RATINGS
DARREN RANDOLPH – 7
Randolph produced a solid display as usual. He was stagnant for the most part as Ireland contained Wales and kept possession comfortably, but when he was needed, he delivered.
He produced a good save on 26 minutes to keep the score at 0-0 but otherwise had very little to do in the first half. He had Irish fans holding their breath at one stage as he dropped the ball after collecting from a corner. Fortunately though, he received a free kick after a collision with Ethan Ampadu. He had little to do in the second half as Ireland continued to control the flow of the game, only making one save from a David Brooks attempt.
MATT DOHERTY – 8
Doherty slotted in at right back to start the game, but just after 20 minutes he would assume the unfamiliar role of centre back. He made a couple positive runs without reward before he was forced into changing position.
He led by example at centre back despite not being natural in the position. He made some important challenges to regain possession and his positional play was up to the mark as he held a good line with the rest of the back four. He swept up several opposition passes and disrupted Welsh attacking moves with ease.
This was arguably Doherty’s best performance in an Ireland shirt and he will have certainly impressed Stephen Kenny after a poor showing against Slovakia.
SHANE DUFFY – 7
Duffy produced another good display at the back which has become the norm over recent years. He consistently provided a problem at set pieces in the first half as he looked to latch onto Robbie Brady’s deliveries.
He was reassured defensively throughout. He made a crucial defensive header towards the end of the match after a quality Welsh cross. Other than a few misplaced passes, Duffy was once again colossal at the back.
KEVIN LONG – 6
It was over a year since Long had played a match for Ireland before today, but his appearance was to be short lived. He was taken off 24 minutes into the game as he sustained a nasty swell above his left eye after an accidental elbow from Welsh target man, Kieffer Moore. Long will be disappointed to have been forced off early but he certainly made an impression while on the pitch. He proved to be very comfortable on the ball and won all of his 50/50s before his unfortunate injury.
ENDA STEVENS – 7
Stevens had a quiet game for the most part. He was good defensively but didn’t provide much in terms of going forward for the majority of the match.
He did however create the best chance of the game with a looping cross into Shane Long, which the latter unfortunately missed.
CONOR HOURIHANE – 6
Hourihane put in a solid performance in the middle of the park without being outstanding. He was accurate in his passing and switched play well at times, but he assumed a deeper role in the absence of James McCarthy. He often collected the ball in his own half instead of operating further up the pitch.
He delivered an excellent ball into the box from a set piece towards the end of the first half but failed to provide a threat in the second 45.
JAYSON MOLUMBY – 7
Jayson Molumby came in for James McCarthy in what was his second senior international appearance. He took his opportunity well in what was a tireless display before he was subbed off towards the end of the match.
He carried the ball well on several occasions and recycled the ball with efficiency. Although he wasn’t as involved in the second half, but still managed to provide much needed energy in midfield. He often dropped deep when defending and provided reliable cover for Cyrus Christie at right back. He’s certainly one for the future.
JEFF HENDRICK – 7
Jeff Hendrick started the match in an advanced midfield position, leaving Molumby and Hourihane to drop deep and do the dirty work.
He had a quiet first half and failed to influence proceeding, often playing sideways or backwards passes. He was more positive in the second half, playing a more progressive game by carrying the ball and looking for forward passes. He was involved in some impressive attacking sequences and can be happy with his second half performance, even if his attempts didn’t always come off.
ROBBIE BRADY – 7
Brady appears to be back to his best for Ireland after a frustrating few years with injuries. He came in on the right wing after Callum Robinson had been sidelined and he has every reason to be happy with his performance.
He was particularly excellent in the first half, consistently threatening the Welsh defence in open play and dead ball situations. He had one of Ireland’s best chances of the game after being gifted the ball from a misplaced pass before striking wide with inches separating the ball and the net.
After his brilliant first half display, Brady was quiet in the second half and was subbed off with 73 minutes played.
JAMES MCCLEAN – 5
James McClean started his second Ireland game in a row on the left after Aaron Connolly remained out of action.
He had a relatively quiet game before being sent off in the 82nd minute for a rash challenge which earned him a second yellow card.
SHANE LONG – 5
Shane Long received a rare start for Ireland after David McGoldrick was sidelined.
Always a willing runner, Long was impressive at times in his pressing of the Welsh backline. He failed to impress in front of goal, however, missing the best chance of the game after a precise cross from Enda Stevens.
He was very quiet before being replaced by Sean Maguire on 73 minutes.
CYRUS CHRISTIE – 7
A third choice right back for the national team these days, Christie made a rare appearance after being subbed on for the injured Kevin Long.
He gradually got better as the game progressed. After an unimpressive first half, Christie played well in the second. He was assured defensively without providing much threat going forward. He made one brilliant interception which would eventually lead to an Ireland chance. Overall, it was solid performance from the man on loan at Nottingham Forest.
DARYL HORGAN – 6
After coming on for Robbie Brady in the 73rd minute, Horgan had one of the best chances of the game. He met a James McClean cross with his head which bounced off a Welsh defender into Horgan’s feet, but he blasted over the crossbar at the second opportunity. He carried the ball fairly well at times but failed to create any chances.
SEAN MAGUIRE – 6
Maguire came on for Shane Long in the 73rd minute to try and make his mark on the game. He showed a series of tidy touches towards the end of the match and produced a line breaking pass into Daryl Horgan’s feet, but the latter failed to capitalize. Otherwise, it was a quiet cameo by the Preston man.
JOSH CULLEN – N/A
Cullen didn’t have enough time on the pitch to make an impact.
MAN OF THE MATCH – MATT DOHERTY