Tonight’s talk­ing points

Irish Examiner - Sport - - SOCCER -

Martin O’neill will not be able to call upon two of his most in­flu­en­tial play­ers, Rob­bie Brady and james Mcclean, for the clash with Moldova af­ter both picked up sec­ond yel­low cards — in Brady’s case, for the sec­ond time in the cam­paign — against Ser­bia. That will rob Ire­land of both cre­ativ­ity and pace and O’neill’s task will be to in­ject fresh in­spi­ra­tion and in­dus­try into his team as he de­cides how best to re­place them. That the Re­pub­lic still have a chance of qual­i­fy­ing for the fi­nals is a tes­ta­ment to their re­silience rather than their po­tency, with their eight games to date hav­ing yielded just nine goals and only two of them at home. Skip­per Sea­mus Coleman’s win­ner against Geor­gia in Oc­to­ber last year and jonathan Wal­ters’ late equaliser against Aus­tria in june rep­re­sent their to­tal haul in Dublin and, with vic­tory es­sen­tial and po­ten­tially morale-boost­ing ahead of Mon­day’s trip to sec­ond-placed Wales, a more ad­ven­tur­ous ap­proach may be nec­es­sary.

james Mccarthy’s in­ter­na­tional in­volve­ment in re­cent months has come at a cost with club man­ager Ron­ald koe­man less than im­pressed with Ire­land’s use of him in the wake of a se­ries of nig­gling in­juries. The Dutch­man dis­patched the mid­fielder to Dublin at the week­end un­der

Sec­ond place in the group may not be enough to se­cure a play-off berth with only eight of the nine run­ners-up go­ing through to the knock­out stage on the ba­sis of their re­sults against the sides fin­ish­ing first, third, fourth and fifth. Group D, which con­tains Ire­land and Wales, and Group H, where Bos­nia-herze­gov­ina are at­tempt­ing to hold off Greece and Cyprus, cur­rently share the low­est to­tals of the sec­ond­placed teams, so re­al­is­ti­cally the Re­pub­lic must win both their re­main­ing games and then keep their fin­gers crossed.

O’neill has stuck largely with his tried and tested squad mem­bers, but had not been averse to the oc­ca­sional sur­prise selec­tion with Burn­ley de­fender kevin long’s com­pet­i­tive de­but against the Aus­tri­ans the most re­cent. His in­clu­sion of un­capped trio Scott Ho­gan, Sean Maguire and Ai­den O’brien in his fi­nal squad amid in­jury and sus­pen­sion prob­lems may have raised eye­brows, but both he and as­sis­tant Roy keane have in­sisted that one or more of the trio could be in­volved.

Words: Damian Spell­man

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