Category: Archive

Irish settle for draw

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

Ireland 2, Holland 2

DUBLIN — No is one quite sure. Is the Republic of Ireland’s glass half full or half empty following last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Holland in the first game of the soccer World Cup qualifying campaign? After all, if a team is 2-0 in front away from home and fails to win, that has to be regarded as a major disappointment. But a draw for Mick McCarthy’s side against the highly rated Dutch in Amsterdam also has to be looked on as an impressive achievement.

“Not so sure about that,” emphasized Roy Keane after Holland had scored twice in the final 19 minutes. “We’ve got to give ourselves something higher to aim at. We’ve got to start winning matches. We haven’t qualified for the World Cup finals since 1994 and you get in this little rut even though the fans are bound to be happy with this draw.”

Then there was McCarthy’s analysis of a game, which the Irish dominated for an hour thanks largely to a pair of brilliantly taken goals by Robbie Keane and Jason McAteer.

“It’s certainly strange coming away from Holland feeling disappointed with only a draw, but people said we would only get one point from our first two games against Holland and Portugal, and there it is already,” McCarthy said.

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Whatever about the ambivalent views in the wake of a match most observers believed Ireland would lose, the team’s performance reflected well on McCarthy’s selection and his tactics. First, there was widespread criticism of the manager when he chose to play McAteer on the right side of midfield rather than Gary Kelly. But McAteer was a revelation, scoring that second goal with a stunning left-foot shot and generally working intelligently out wide with Stephen Carr.

Equally, there was serious doubt over the selection of 20-year-old central defender Richard Dunne, who was detailed to mark Holland’s world-class striker, Patrick Kluivert. In the end, Dunne emerged with immense credit despite the constant threat of the Dutch center forward.

“I thought Richard was brilliant,” McCarthy said. “He stuck with Kluivert and saved us right at the death with a great tackle.”

The build-up to the game had earlier been seriously affected when Phil Babb and Mark Kennedy — who both seemed certain to start in Amsterdam — had been arrested in Dublin following a boozy night-time caper that went wrong. Ignoring a curfew set by McCarthy, Babb and Kennedy were taken into custody at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29, and later charged with doing criminal damage to a car.

The pair, who had been refused drink in a nightclub, were seen running over the hoods and roofs of several parked cars, one of which belonged to a policewoman who embarrassingly for Babb and Kennedy, outran them and made the arrest. The players were charged and are due to reappear in a Dublin court in November.

Both were immediately sent home by McCarthy, but at that stage before the squad had even left for Amsterdam, it seemed as if the Irish preparations were in disarray. But in the wake of his team’s dismal failure to qualify for the finals of Euro 2000, the players responded superbly, and while the Dutch were deprived of the services of Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids and Marc Overmars, last Saturday turned out to be a quality display.

Robbie Keane headed the opening goal after 21 minutes when McAteer and Carr combined brilliantly down the right, and then McAteer increased the Irish lead going into the final quarter with a perfect 25-yard shot. However, in the closing stages Roy Keane and Mark Kinsella found it difficult to exert the same sort of influence in the middle of the pitch as Holland poured forward, and when substitute Talan headed a goal, it was no great suprise that Van Bronckhorst was able to equalize with a long-range shot six minutes from the end.

“The Irish toyed with us for a long time,” admitted Dutch manager Louis van Gaal. “They deserved their lead, but I thought we would win it right at the end.” Relief for one manager, confidence for McCarthy as his team goes to Portugal for the second qualifying match on October 7.

Ireland: Kelly; Carr, Breen, Dunne, Harte; McAteer, Roy Keane, Kinsella, Kilbane; Robbie Keane, Quinn. Subs: Connolly for Quinn, 72 mins; G. Kelly for McAteer, 74 mins.; Staunton for Kilbane, 78 mins.

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