After a stalemate which lasted 120 minutes, Kenny’s men were subjected to a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. We have a look at how the players performed.
On what was just Stephen Kenny’s third game in charge of the national team, he had an enormous task on his hands. The Republic of Ireland had to win if they wished to reach the final stage of Euro 2020 qualification, lose and they would kiss their qualification hopes goodbye. Unfortunately for Kenny and his team, the latter occurred as they bowed out on penalties to a depleted Slovakian team.
Although the match itself was a scoreless draw, it wasn’t due to lack of chances. Both sides had their misfortune in front of goal, but it was Ireland who would come to rue their missed chances. The luck of the Irish didn’t come true in Bratislava as Ireland hit the post on one occasion, had two certain goals cleared off the line and missed a plethora of other chances.
Although the match itself didn’t pan out the way Ireland fans would have wanted, positive can be taken out of the performance. The Irish team’s performance was arguably one of the more impressive performances in years despite the lack of goals. On another night, they could have managed three or more goals which would have resulted in a comprehensive victory, but it wasn’t to be.
There were definitive signs that Kenny’s team have gelled since the last international break, in which they failed to impress against two lower ranked sides in Finland and Bulgaria. Hopefully the positivity of the performance is a sign of things to come under Kenny’s reign, if so, we can look forward to the years ahead.
Here are our player ratings from tonight’s performance.
IRISH PLAYER RATINGS
DARREN RANDOLPH – 7
Randolph has long been a consistent performer for Ireland, and he produced another solid display tonight. He wasn’t called upon often but when he was, he was reliable as always. He was commanding in his box throughout and he produced a vital save towards the end of the first half.
The only criticism that can be made about Randolph’s performance was his inability to keep the Slovakian penalties out of the net, but penalties can be cruel to even the best of keepers.
MATT DOHERTY – 5
Arguably Ireland’s worst performer of the night. Missing a decisive penalty ended what had been a bad night for the newly signed Spurs man. Doherty consistently struggled to provide the attacking output he often has at club level, making just one run into the box which briefly caused problems for the opposition.
Not only did he fail to make an impact in the opposition half of the pitch, he also failed to impress in his own half. Positionally he was abysmal at times, failing to hold the line with the rest of the back 4 and he also failed to close down his man effectively on numerous occasions which led to a huge Slovak chance in the second half.
Perhaps Doherty would perform better in a back 5, where he would have the freedom to attack at will while having fewer defensive responsibilities.
SHANE DUFFY – 8
One of Ireland’s most consistent performers in recent years, Duffy proved yet again why he’s arguably the country’s best player. Solid throughout, Duffy produced a spectacular goal line clearance in the second half to keep the score level. He also made several important interceptions to halt Slovakian attacks. Reliable as always.
JOHN EGAN – 7
Complimenting Duffy on the left-hand side of the central defence, Egan was also impressive and composed in the heart of the defence. He won the majority of his 50/50s and was involved in some decent passing moves when venturing further forward.
Egan made one or two sloppy passes throughout the match but none leading to any chances for the opposition, otherwise his passing range was good, completing 84% of his passes.
ENDA STEVENS – 7
After a quiet first half, in which his passing was poor at times, Stevens came alive in the second half. He began to make more forward runs which caused problems for the opposition on a couple of occasions.
He was involved in one of Ireland’s best chances of the game, slipping in a pinpoint pass to Alan Browne’s feet which he unfortunately couldn’t tuck home. He was also comfortable defensively throughout the game without being too noticeable.
CONOR HOURIHANE – 7
Hourihane put in a solid performance in the middle of the park, his passing range throughout the match was excellent for the most part, threading several passes through opposition lines and on one occasion providing Callum Robinson with a pinpoint crossfield ball. However, his set piece delivery wasn’t as effective as we’ve seen in the past.
He also failed to finish Irelands best chance of the match, opting to cushion the ball into an opposition defender’s legs rather than smashing the ball into the net. Otherwise, it was a good performance from the Cork man.
JAMES MCCARTHY – 6
McCarthy started in a double pivot with Hourihane, however it would be only Hourihane who would last the full match. McCarthy was subbed off sixty minutes after sustaining a minor injury, perhaps as a precautionary measure by Kenny given his injury troubles in the past.
He had a quiet game before being subbed, he kept the ball well without playing progressive passes or injecting any creative into the game. Overall, it was an okay performance by McCarthy.
JEFF HENDRICK – 6
Jeff Hendrick started the match in a midfield three with McCarthy and Hourihane. Playing in a more advanced role than his aforementioned midfield partners, he produced a solid yet unassuming performance. Lasting the whole game, he was involved in many of the attacking moves without being the creative spark that Ireland fans are crying out for.
Although he played higher up the pitch for most of the game, he also made a vital interception in the first half to deny Slovakia a goalscoring opportunity.
CALLUM ROBINSON – 7
After an impressive start to the season which included a brace against Chelsea, Ireland fans were hoping Robinson could replicate his form on the international stage. Robinson looked the most comfortable of the Irish players on the ball throughout the match.
In the first half, he was involved in some tidy attacking sequences and whipped some dangerous crosses into the box, unfortunately nobody was there to meet said crosses.
He was also involved in Ireland’s most dangerous move of the game, rounding the keeper before laying off to Alan Browne which ultimately led to a missed opportunity at the hands of Conor Hourihane. Robinson lasted 100 minutes before he was subbed off.
JAMES MCCLEAN – 7
After not appearing in Stephen Kenny’s first two managerial outings, James McClean had a point to prove, replacing the sidelined Aaron Connolly.
McClean was Ireland’s best performer of the first half, using his energy and determination to unsettle the Slovakian players. He had Ireland’s best chance of the first half and also set up David McGoldrick after a terrific interception and through ball.
He looked more composed on the ball than he has in previous Ireland appearances and was dangerous in and out of possession. McClean was subbed off 60 minutes into the match after he failed to emulate his first half performance.
DAVID MCGOLDRICK – 8
A great performance by the Sheffield United striker. McGoldrick assumed a false nine role, dropping deep to receive the ball when needed and creating chances for his teammates. The opposition defenders didn’t know how to handle him at times. He displayed some unbelievable touches throughout the game.
He played a key role in Ireland’s best chance of the game, going on a mazy run before slipping a ball through the opposition defence for Callum Robinson to run onto. He was subbed on 112 minutes after a brilliant, tireless display.
ROBBIE BRADY – 7
Subbed on with 60 minutes played, Brady assumed the position of right winger, meaning Callum Robinson could switch to his favoured side on the left.
He looked comfortable in possession throughout, rarely giving the ball away. He was involved in an attacking sequence where he combined well with Callum O’Dowda before Alan Browne hit the post. He also hit the side netting from a free kick, which I’m sure made some Ireland fans jump momentarily.
ALAN BROWNE – 7
The unluckiest player on the pitch, Browne completely changed the game when he came on. Unfortunately, though, he failed to hit the net.
He had 3 big chances during the match, one being saved by the keeper, one hitting the post and one being cleared off the line. He was also involved in the chance which seen Conor Hourihane’s chance cleared, passing the ball into Hourihane’s feet. To add to his misfortune, Browne also missed his penalty in the shootout.
He will be unfairly criticized by some sections of the Ireland support, but there’s no doubt he had an impact on the game.
CALLUM O’DOWDA – 7
Subbed on in the 100th minute, O’Dowda had to make every second count to catch the eye of Stephen Kenny. He looked comfortable in possession, completing all of his passes, and nearly assisted Alan Browne in what might have been the winning goal. He was impressive for the amount of time he had on the pitch.
SHANE LONG – N/A
Long didn’t have sufficient time to make an impact. He was subbed on in the 112th minute and failed to influence the game.
MAN OF THE MATCH – DAVID MCGOLDRICK