On Friday the 24th April Ireland played out an intense 0-0 draw with Wales to mark the halfway point in the qualification stages to reach Russia for the World Cup in 2018.
So far they’ve played 5 matches and gone unbeaten picking up 11 points leaving them joint top but with Serbia edging them out on goal difference.
The results have been as follows:
Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland-FK Crevna Zvezda-Belgrade
Republic of Ireland 1-0 Georgia-Aviva Stadium-Dublin
Moldova 1-3 Republic of Ireland-Zimbru-Chisinau
Austria-0-1 Republic of Ireland-Ernst Happel Stadium-Vienna
Republic of Ireland-0-0 Wales-Aviva Stadium-Dublin
Considering that the boys in green were away for the Austria and Serbia game if they keep up this form they look set to qualify for Russia.
The next 5 games are:
Republic of Ireland vs Austria-11th of June-Aviva Stadium-Dublin
Georgia vs Republic of Ireland-2nd of September-Boris Paichadze National Stadium-Tbilisi
Republic of Ireland vs Serbia-5th of September-Aviva Stadium-Dublin
Republic of Ireland vs Moldova-6th of October-Aviva Stadium-Dublin
Wales vs Republic of Ireland-9th of October-City Stadium-Cardiff
With a couple of tough games and Seamus Coleman out for the foreseeable future it looks tough but I believe Martin O’Neil’s men have enough to qualify automatically or through the play offs.
Ireland had a very up and down tournament with big wins and disappointing losses so let’s look back at it.
Scotland 27-22 Ireland
To say the tournament got off to a bad start would be an understatement. Joe Schmidt’s men, who were picked to be the champions, never turned up against the Scots. It was the first half that killed Ireland, with Stuart Hogg getting a double in tries. Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson tried to mount a comeback but 2 late penalties from Greg Laidlow got them the victory.
Italy 10-63 Ireland
Then, when you talk about big wins, here’s a great example. Ireland rampaged through Italy on this day with CJ Stander and Craig Gilroy both grabbing hat-tricks. Stander and Keith Earls both crossed twice in the first half and Paddy Jackson got a 100% conversion rate. Italy brought back ten points with a converted penalty-try and a penalty, but to no avail. Stander completed his hat-trick in the second half, before being replaced by Gilroy, who also got three tries. Gary Ringose also got one to seal up the score.
Ireland 19-9 France
In Ireland’s first home game they continued their winning ways. France were 6-0 up and had a try disallowed, but Conor Murray got them into the lead just before the break with a converted try. Into the second half Ireland went nine points further ahead, thanks to Johnny Sexton’s penalties. France pulled 3 back from Camille Lopez with a third penalty, but straight after Paddy Jackson restored the lead to nine after yet another penalty.
Wales 22-9 Ireland
After two wins on the bounce, Wales put a stop to that with a commanding win over the boys in green. Ireland opened the scoring with a Johnny Sexton penalty. Wales hit back with last years top try scorer George North getting over the line while Sexton was in the sin-bin for a HIA. Paddy Jackson got Ireland back in front with a penalty while Sexton was still in the bin. It was short lived as Halfpenny got a penalty just before the end of the half so they went into the break leading. North got his second try just after the half with Halfpenny converting. Sexton cut the deficit by 3 with another penalty but it was to no avail, as Jamie Roberts put one under the post in the last 3 minutes to wrap it up with Halfpenny converting again.
Ireland 13-9 England
England had the 6 nations wrapped up but there was a lot more riding on this like the winning record of 18 wins in tier one rugby and the Grand Slam. Ireland started well, with Sexton kicking them three points ahead early on. Then, around 25 minutes, in Iain Henderson got over the line with a conversion from Sexton, but thanks to a penalty put over by Owen Farrell, it was 10-3 going into the break. Farrell cut the lead to 6 points with another penalty. Sexton relieved mounting pressure on Ireland with another penalty to make it 13-6. Farrell kicked over again but it turned out to only be consolation, as England were left with a sour taste in their mouth lifting the 6 Nations.
In a high-tension match, Chelsea edged out Manchester United in a fiery affair at Stamford Bridge to have a chance at the home double this season.
Mourinho and Conte were involved in some clashes on the sidelines during a heated game in which Herrera was shown a red.
The Man United coach had a rough time from the home fans on the sidelines, but calmly reminded them of the three trophies won by him at the Bridge during his time at the helm.
The Reds had an obvious game plan of not letting Hazard play by means of fouls, but eventually pushed it too far, with Herrera being the victim. Herrera’s first yellow was virtue of a body check on the Belgian. Then, just 15 minutes later on the 35′, he got a second yellow for a trip on the Blues’ number 10 seconds after Fellaini had just fouled him.
The one man advantage made it easy for Chelsea to dominate proceedings from then on, with United rarely getting out of their half and Chelsea having target practice on De Gea. The winner on the 51′ minute came from unlikely source and deserved man of the match N’Golo Kante.
Kante’s goal was a low drive from the edge of the box that caught Man United’s shotstopper by surprise and curled into the left bottom corner.
Rashford (who had been bed stricken by sickness the previous couple of days) had a chance to draw things level late on. It was a quick counter attack in which he had Cahill on the ropes, but Courtois came to the rescue, coming out quickly to save Rashford’s goalbound effort.
Chelsea go on to Wembley for the FA Cup semi final, where they have drawn Tottenham in a highly anticipated clash on April 22nd.
With the rise of websites like Balls.ie, Sportsjoe.ie and The42, a lot more Irish players are getting a lot more attention than they would have gotten five or ten years ago. This is fantastic and leads to more opportunities to find players like Daryl Horgan (a very talented player). In my opinion, he may have been overlooked without these websites posting articles about him, which would have meant no move to Preston North-End and no Ireland cap. However, this now seems to have led to sports websites trying to over-hype more and more under the radar players, to try and garner another success story.
No one loves taking the mick out of the English media for overhyping more than the Irish, but some Irish websites have begun to do it with already established players. An example of this would be the Robbie Brady transfer saga to Norwich. Balls.ie were posting stories about a move by Brady to a Premier League side with a transfer fee of £25 million.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Robbie Brady as much as the next Irishman and I will never forget that night in Lille, but £25 million is asking a bit much. Norwich fans have stated their discontent with Brady over social media, saying he is a different player with the green jersey on, and perhaps they’re right. However, these websites are only seeing the international Brady who could be worth that much, and not his current club form.
At the end of the day, I believe these websites should (deservedly) hype up some of these players, but keep in mind not every Irish player will be the next Robbie Keane .