The Boys in Green were defeated 1-0 in Dublin, where Martin O’Neill’s fringe players showed why they are not usually regulars for their country
Earlier this month, GQ was widely chastised for captioning their its latest edition with “the greatest tennis player of all time” when referring to Roger Federer. Tennis fans online were aggreived that Serena Williams was overlooked as GQ whitewashed her achievements out of existence.
For much of the Republic of Ireland’s friendly with Iceland, the same fans could have been mistaken for thinking that they were watching the next wave of tennis players in action. During 90 minutes at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the ball spent a long time in the sky, going from end to end with little impact.
Man United monitor Ox and Alexis
And like those tennis fans on twitter, the football supporters in Dublin would have been equally wound up by what they saw in front of them. Ireland fielded a much changed XI from the side that drew 0-0 with Wales four days earlier, but did not show any more quality than the agricultural football that had been on display in the World Cup qualifier.
Friendlies should be used as a chance to assess fringe players, try out different approaches, and build on structures already in place. It was difficult to see what exactly Martin O’Neill may have learned from the visit of Euro 2016’s surprise package.
Robbie Brady captained the side, but was wasted at left-back as Ireland resorted to long ball tactics to try to find 33-year-old forward Kevin Doyle. The Burnley man made some impressive forways into midfield, but his defensive duties meant he could never really roam the way he should be allowed to.
Similarly, Aiden McGeady and James McClean put in trademark performances that they have every single time they’ve played for their country. McClean was tireless and ran after everything, while McGeady beat his man before finding an away shirt with his cross.
The only positive from the game came as four players were handed their debuts. John Egan had a solid game in defence, showing his determination by picking up an early injury that forced him to wear a bandage for the remainder of the game.
Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane was the real bright spark for the Boys in Green, putting in an all-round performance where he showed composure on the ball – but only when he was given the opportunity. For far too long, the ball was punted from back to front as O’Neill’s tactics bypassed the midfield. Once again, an all too familiar sight for Ireland fans.
Preston North End duo Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle were sent on for the last 25 minutes to make their international debuts, but neither was really given long enough to show that they are cut out for this level. Horgan put in a few decent crosses to Doyle, but his brief cameo did not allow him to really make his mark on the match.
Alex Pearce and Jonny Hayes added to their previous appearance totals, with both regular squad members but never starters. It was difficult to see what other options they might give O’Neill in a poor spectacle. Both players put in decent but uneventful performances, and did little to make the crowd rise to their feet,
Much has been made about the pointlessness of many international friendlies, and this is one that will not live long in the memory. Football fans at the Aviva Stadium had expected better. Even tennis fans would have been disappointed by the lack of entertainment on show.