By Mark Jones
Several fringe players in the Republic of Ireland soccer squad made theirmark at Lansdowne Road last week as a makeshift Mick McCarthy team beat Sweden, 2-0. If both result and performance were satisfactory, the game certainly lacked a competitive edge.
Still, for the likes of Graham Kavanagh, Mark Kennedy, Kevin Kilbane and Steve Carr, it was an opportunity and all four took it. Kavanagh and Kennedy scored the vital second-half goals, while Kilbane and Carr stood up to the test well.
The Irish were under pressure for long periods as a skilful Swedish side put together some sharp passing movements, but when Kavanagh blasted a shot home and Kennedy added a second with a more subtle strike in the space of a couple of minutes, McCarthy has secured a confidence-boosting result.
In the absence of Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and Ian Harte, the Irish manager was understandably please with the outcome.
"The game had been billed as something not worthwhile, but it turned out to be very valuable," he said.
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Meanwhile, it is still not know if Ireland’s two European Championship qualifying games against Yugoslavia and Macedonia will go ahead next month. FIFA has yet to make on a ruling on whether the matches will be postponed because of the war in the Balkans.
There is also the distinct possibility that Yugoslavia could now be thrown out of the tournament. If that was the case, then Ireland’s earlier defeat in Belgrade would be discounted from the qualifying process.
St. Pat’s clinches
St. Patrick’s Athletic clinched soccer’s National League title for the second year in a row when they defeated Bray Wanderers, 1-0, in the last game of the season at Richmond Park last weekeknd.
St. Pat’s finished three points clear of Cork City, who beat Shamrock Rovers, 3-0, a result that would have seen the League heading to Cork if Pat’s had lost to Bray. However, the Dublin club triumphed in style with a record number of points and only 21 goals conceded in 33 games.
Cork have the consolation of qualifying for the UEFA Cup, while Bray and Dundalk are relegated with Bohemians heading for the playoffs.