When Britons prove they have the bottle for battle
but you wouldn’t have thought so given the amount of possession they had.
Michael O’Neill would certainly have been the happier of the two managers at half time.
For 45 minutes his unsung side managed to keep tabs on Bale, the only real world class player on view here yesterday and the one man capable of winning it all on his own. At six o’clock or so last night just about every footy fan in Wales was hoping their hero could keep them in Europe, even though most of them did vote to come out of it, so to speak, last Thursday.
Credit to the Irish they were never going to make it easy for the favourites, even if Sam Vokes did miss the first real chance to break the deadlock early on in the second half after what was the first real moment of quality you sort of expect on a regular basis from footballers at this level. Frankly, Michael McGovern in the Irish goal must have been wondering what all the fuss was about up until then with hardly a save to make. He didn’t have to wait much longer to find out.
Bale’s free-kick was a virtual carbon copy of the one that beat Joe Hart when they played England. McGovern was up to it, but it served to remind Ireland – and the rest of us for that matter – just what a special player Bale can be. The Real deal on his day.
And he was all of that again yesterday. Single handedly setting up the matchwinner that Wales hadn’t looked like getting for long periods, but which his country has been dreaming about for decades.
Just one magic moment from the star man made all the difference and, let’s not mince words here it was Bale who rescued Wales with that stunning cross that poor Gareth McAuley just couldn’t help turning into his own net.
It was so tough on the brave Irish, so incredibly hard on McAuley, but just the thing that will help Wales get over their team’s rugby hiding in New Zealand yesterday – and the fallout from that Referendum retreat.
And he was, of course, ‘made’ in Britain!