When the draw for the 2018 World Cup qualification was made, the two games that stood out if you are an Irish fan were the two clashes against Wales. The atmosphere around these two games would be off the Richter scale and last Friday week we had the first part of the double header. The build up in the papers all week prior up to the game was very intense to say the least. A lot of nonsense was been said to hype a game that in fairness did not need it. There were plenty of comments been made in the media as to how certain players were going to be handled to nullify their threat, Gareth Bale was one of the players mentioned. Now I know this always goes on, but I felt it had an effect on the game we could have done without. Going into the game Martin O’ Neill and his squad were top of the group and they knew only to well that a win would almost certainly put the Welsh out of contention as a seven point gap would be hard to close.
On the night the atmosphere was electric and it had the feel of a real local derby. If I am to be honest it was a game of very few chances and if the game had gone on all night we probably would have had the same scoreline. The nil all result probably suited the Irish more than it did the Welsh, but what happened during the ninety minutes can not be let pass without having a look at one bad and one shocking tackle that should have seen Wales reduced to nine men. If you look at what went on in the first half you would have to say Ireland battled the stronger and won the physical battle. The second half was totally different and you have to wonder what exactly did Chris Coleman say to his team at the break. Whatever was said brought out a nasty feel to a game that was already in danger of turning dirty. The Welsh came out in that second half and were clearly not going to be bullied off the ball no matter what they had to do. Gareth Bale,s tackle on John O Shea was late and disgusting and deserved a red card in my opinion. The referee in my opinion who had a good game missed the challenge and only produced a yellow card which was a disappointing outcome. In my opinion if Bale had been given his marching orders what happened to Seamus Coleman may never have occurred. Over the years I have seen some awful tackles in games and the one I witnessed on the night goes down as the worst in my book. Neil Taylor should be ashamed of himself and how any professional can do such a cowardly act beggars belief. It has been said since the game that Neil is not that type of player, but I am sorry having seen what he did to Seamus Coleman, he is in my opinion. It left a horrible feeling on the night and it is a pity FIFA can not ban him for at least eight games.
On reflection a point for Ireland was an excellent result giving the circumstances on the night. It keeps Martin O’ Neill,s side well in with a chance for World Cup qualification but the sour taste left by that tackle on Seamus Coleman took the shine off the result. Next up for Ireland in this group is a home tie against Austria and this has now turned into a must win game now. The campaign has so far been superb and let us hope we can see the Irish boys get the job done.
By David Meier