It does not matter what part of the world you live in, the events over the past couple of weeks have been horrific. The terrorist attacks in both Manchester and London have left many dead and destroyed a lot of lives. I will never understand what makes these so called terrorists do what they do in such an evil fashion. Many ordinary people have lost their lives and all they were doing was going out on separate evenings enjoying themselves, I fail to see the harm in that. With such atrocities been carried out around the globe, it is very hard to focus on anything else with any feeling of joy. Sometimes sport can take you away from all the problems and give your mind the break that it needs just to get you focussed again.
Over the past week or so, the Republic of Ireland have played two friendly games against Mexico and Uruguay and the results could not have been more different. Over the next two paragraphs let me bring you up to date on what happened as Martin O’Neill’s squad continue their build up to the all important World Cup qualifier against Austria.
First up for Martin and the squad was a game against Mexico which was played in the MetLife stadium in New York. I have to admit that travelling so far to play a friendly seemed a bit daft to me, but in fairness it was used in the right way as Martin was able to give those players who play in the English championship a chance to get some game time under their belts as they had not played competitive football for a few weeks.
O’Neill played a very much experimental side and he also used a new system, the manager decided to line out with a three five two formation. The game as a contest was over after twenty six minutes when the Mexicans went two up through goals from Corona and Jimenez. The Mexicans ran the Irish ragged in midfield and totally controlled the game. James McClean who was making his fiftieth appearance for his country was made captain for the evening and even he could not pull the Irish together. The game finished three one to the Mexicans and they totally deserved the win, there is no argument about that. One plus for the Irish was the performance of substitute Stephen Gleeson when he came on and the Birmingham player got himself on the score sheet.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane must have had a lot to contemplate on the flight back to Dublin as next up was another friendly against South American opposition in Uruguay in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Although well beaten in New York it was not a disaster as the purpose of the exercise was to give players game time as I mentioned earlier. Martin in the past has not really looked at results from friendly internationals and I am sure this one would have been cleared from his mind when he got back to the Irish base back in Dublin.
If the Mexican result was disappointing for Martin O’Neill and his players the performance and the result against Uruguay was top class. This was the last preparation game for the match against Austria and it went so well, the manager had to be impressed. The game ended three one in favour of the Irish and the style in which they got the result was like a breath of fresh air. Ireland took the lead when Jon Walters scored a screamer from about twenty five yards out as he turned and hit a ball that seemed to be bouncing all over the place before he struck it. Uruguay equalised before half time and it was a bit of a calamity as both Shane Duffy and Darren Randolph got themselves in a mess as neither made a decision to clear the ball allowing Gimenez to head home.
I can only imagine what was said in the dressing room after the game about that. There was no need to worry as the second half performance by the Irish was the best I have seen in a longtime.
A further two goals by Christie and McClean saw the Irish complete a memorable night and take the victory with some style. The significant thing for me about the game was how the Irish passed the ball around and very rarely gave away pocession which if they repeat the same against Austria they will surely win. It was a game were Harry Arter played himself right in contention to start against the Austrians. The Bouremouth player probably put in his best performance in an Irish shirt since becoming part of the green army. The game went so well for O’Neill and his squad and now we move on to Austria in the hope of getting three more points on the way to qualification for the 2018 World Cup Finals.