KEVIN KILBANE HOS­TILE CARDIFF CROWD WON’T BE A PROB­LEM

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - THE TITLE - Kevin Kilbane AN IR­ISH CEN­TU­RION

THE Welsh FA could have eas­ily fol­lowed the money and switched to­mor­row’s show­down with Ire­land from the Cardiff City Sta­dium to the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium.

Over the past last six years, though, the Cham­pi­onship ground has be­come an in­tim­i­dat­ing home and Wales have reaped the re­wards.

So while a switch to the Prin­ci­pal­ity would see an ex­tra 40,000 sup­port­ers – let’s face it, Ire­land would eas­ily have sold an ad­di­tional six or seven thou­sand tick­ets too – and en­sure the cash rolled in, they have stuck to their guns for the greater good of reach­ing the World Cup play-offs.

It’s not hard to see why. Chris Cole­man wants a tight, in­tim­i­dat­ing at­mos­phere. He wants the crowd right on top of the play­ers. He wants to gen­er­ate that buzz in a more con­densed ground. I hope it doesn’t work. When­ever I have seen Wales play in the Cardiff City Sta­dium, it does seem to cre­ate a bet­ter at­mos­phere and it can be more in­tense and pas­sion­ate.

But, es­sen­tially, most of our play­ers have played there be­fore. So they know what it is all about and I am sure they will not be in­tim­i­dated by it. I don’t think it will cause a prob­lem.

What is more im­por­tant is how Ire­land play. We need to win and this clash has all the feel­ing of a cup fi­nal and in­tense lo­cal derby. It’s one of those games when a player can­not come off with any re­grets.

Ire­land go to Wales in good shape af­ter the win on Fri­day night, which was very com­fort­able and over as a con­test af­ter 20 min­utes. We were very good for the first half an hour but once the sec­ond goal went in every­thing changed.

We could, and should, have had more goals but I think over­all, the last hour of the game was sim­ply a case of see­ing it through un­scathed.

It was not a great per­for­mance or one you would be in­spired by but it was al­ways go­ing to be a com­fort­able night, es­pe­cially when that early goal went in.

It was a slightly un­com­fort­able game to watch at times be­cause Moldova broke too eas­ily, but they were never go­ing to score. There was one ex­cel­lent save from Dar­ren Ran­dolph but every­thing was fired at him from 30 yards.

There were plenty of pos­i­tives for Martin O’Neill as he looks to­wards his all-im­por­tant team se­lec­tion for to­mor­row night.

As for Ire­land, the sec­ond goal was as good as you will see any­where.

A su­per ball from Wes Hoola­han to Stephen Ward on the left, a great cross from him and a sub­lime header by Daryl Mur­phy. The only draw­back was that it kind of killed the game.

The team is bound to be changed from Fri­day night, with James McClean and Rob­bie Brady avail­able again af­ter sus­pen­sion. O’Neill sug­gested both would come back in and it is hard to ar­gue with that. You would imag­ine that Hoola­han would drop out. He played well against Moldova but the sug­ges­tion is he can’t play two games in a week, although I would love him to start. He is a player who can hold onto the ball and cre­ate open­ings when space is tight but he might be an op­tion to use off the bench. That is some­thing that has been lack­ing in re­cent games but we could have in abun­dance in Cardiff with Daryl Mur­phy’s two goals, the emer­gence of Seán Maguire and the com­pet­i­tive de­but of Cal­lum O’Dowda. O’Dowda was ex­cel­lent for the first 25 min­utes on Fri­day and has given the man­ager some food for thought. It was ex­actly the per­for­mance we would hope for from a good foot­baller who is quick, good on the ball and bal­anced.

I still think he will be a straight swap for McClean.

Brady is cer­tain to come back into the side and O’Neill may de­cide to sac­ri­fice one of the two up front.

Per­son­ally I would play Shane Long be­cause of his pace and abil­ity to hurt Wales, but with Mur­phy scor­ing two goals against Moldova, how can you leave him out?

Wales dom­i­nated the mid­field dur­ing most of the game at the Aviva and O’Neill might try to nul­lify that threat.

That was a dull game with no real chances through­out and I ex­pect there to be much more this time and more edgi­ness be­cause of what is at stake.

We’ve all been try­ing to work out the play-off per­mu­ta­tions and math­e­mat­ics. The funny thing is, af­ter Aus­tria beat Ser­bia, we go into this game know­ing we could still top the group.

We need to win the game any­way and Ser­bia will still beat Ge­or­gia at home, I am sure, but that de­feat in Vi­enna means Wales and Ire­land now have a chance of qual­i­fy­ing au­to­mat­i­cally.

And that might suit Ire­land. I think it puts Wales un­der more pres­sure, par­tic­u­larly play­ing at home.

There will be more chances this time but it prom­ises to be edgy and tight.

Hope­fully Ire­land will have enough to win it.

CRAFT: Wes Hoola­han can be key for Ire­land in Cardiff

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