This weekend sees the Republic of Ireland face Bosnia in a two legged play off for qualification for next years 2016 European Championships in France. When the draw was made and the Bosnians came out of the bag or bowl as UEFA tend to use, a lot of Irish fans were delighted and felt the possibility was really on for The Boys in Green to board a plane to the finals. In Martin O’Neill’s first qualifying campaign as manager the play offs is a step forward for the Irish team. The fans of this Irish team need to be at the big tournaments and you won’t find many arguments against that. The following this Irish team has is unbelievable and can bring so much fun to any football party. This weekend will be a combination of nail biting and hiding behind the settee if things are tight going into the last couple of minutes in the second leg. It will be a tough task for Martin and his squad,but one thing is certain they will throw the kitchen sink at Bosnia, so as they can join England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the big French party in the sunshine next summer.
Going into the two legged affair, the Irish manager Martin O’Neill already knew he would be without suspended John O’Shea and Johnathan Walters. There is enough cover in the squad to replace O’Shea but the Stoke player Walters is going to be a huge loss and nobody jumps out to me as his replacement. If you add to this the fact that Shay Given misses out due to injury and Shane Long is only 50/50 at best to play in the second leg, you can see how tough it is going to be for the Irish. This I am sure has given the manager a few sleepless nights over the past week, but I am sure the wily old fox has come up with a game plan, I personally would park the bus, truck, boat and aeroplane to secure a positive result. One thing is certain that if his team do not put the shackles on the Bosnian player Pjanic, that could cause huge problems for the Irish back four. O’Neill’s team selection has always been hard to predict before a game and I don’t expect it to be any different this time. An away goal for the Irish would set this two legged tie up beautifully for the return leg on Monday night in Dublin. In my opinion it will be difficult for O’Neill,s team to score from open play and their best possible chance will be from a set piece. The worst possible result for O’Neills men would be if they come home to Dublin needing to score two goals or more. I feel they just do not have the quality in the team to achieve this. Ireland tend not to beat top nations by many goals and it tends to be a single goal victory that does the trick.
No matter what the outcome of these two games this weekend brings, I am sure the Irish are ready to party. We can only hope that the party can start on Monday night and that the Bosnians have not destroyed the dream of going to France next summer, on this Friday the 13th, yes the 13th, unlucky for some, let us hope it is not for the Boys in Green.