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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 23 May, 2018
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Horgan impresses as four players earn first caps but Ireland suffer defeat to Iceland

The Boys in Green went down 1-0 in Dublin this evening.

Daryl Horgan takes on Rurik Gislason.
Daryl Horgan takes on Rurik Gislason.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ireland 0

Iceland 1

Ben Blake reports from the Aviva Stadium 

AN EXPERIMENTAL IRELAND side was handed a narrow defeat by Iceland at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson’s accurate free-kick midway through the first half was enough to hand Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side victory in a friendly that won’t live long in many people’s minds.

On a positive note, the game saw four uncapped players — Cork-born duo Conor Hourihane and John Egan and Preston North End pair Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle – making their international bows. Horgan, in particular, caught the eye with his second half cameo.

Martin O’Neill made a total of nine changes to the side that earned a draw against Wales last Friday night, with James McClean and Jeff Hendrick the only survivors.

Debuts were handed to Brentford defender Egan and Aston Villa midfielder Hourihane from the start as the Ireland boss opted for a 4-4-2 formation which saw Aiden McGeady and Jonny Hayes occupy the wings, while McClean partnered Kevin Doyle up front.

John Egan and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson John Egan tracks Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Unfortunately for those in attendance, the opening period was played at a pedestrian pace meaning it was devoid of any real noteworthy incidents — although Egan had to have his head bandaged early on after receiving an elbow from Kjartan Henry Finnbogason.

With 20 minutes played, Egan fouled the same Icelandic striker and it led to the only goal of the game. The Brentford centre-half pulled down his marker 25 yards out from goal before going into Danish referee Jakob Kehlet’s book.

Bristol City full-back Magnusson stepped up to curl the resulting free-kick over the Irish wall and past the rooted Keiren Westwood.

They had been extremely disjointed up until that point, but the home side upped the tempo slightly after conceding as McGeady, McClean and Brady attempted to inject some much-needed urgency.

Doyle sent a glancing header wide of Ogmudur Kristinsson’s post after an inviting ball from McClean, but that was the extent of Ireland’s first half chances.

Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson scores their first goal from a free kick Magnusson gets his free-kick over the heads of the Irish wall. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ireland showed signs of improvement after the restart and Christie began to get forward from full-back to cause problems down the right.

With 64 minutes on the clock, O’Neill started to empty the bench —  sending on four substitutes in one go. In what is a proud moment for Dundalk Football Club and the League of Ireland as a whole, Horgan and Boyle were handed were introduced for their first caps along with Leeds United midfielder Eunan O’Kane and Stephen Gleeson of Birmingham City.

Strangely, the changes actually brought more structure to the Ireland team with O’Kane looking assured in midfield and Horgan producing a couple of fine attacks on the left wing.

Ireland U21 Player of the Year Callum O’Dowda was introduced minutes later and the Bristol City man got the crowd on their feet with a solo run and shot, which was deflected behind for a corner.

The closing stages were all Ireland, but they couldn’t do enough to find an equaliser as their opponents seemed content to run down the clock with a string of substitutions.

IRELAND: Westwood; Christie, Pearce, Egan (Boyle 64), Brady (c); Hendrick (Gleeson 64), Hourihane (O’Kane 64), McClean (Long 72), McGeady (O’Dowda 73), Hayes (Horgan 64); K Doyle.

ICELAND: Kristinsson; Saeversson (Jonsson 85), Ingason, R Sigurdsson (Holmar Eyjolfsson 53), Magnusson; Gislason (A Skulason 89), Gunnarsson (c), O Skulason (Smarason 79), A Sigurdarson; Bodvarsson, Finnbogason (Karlsson 72).

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Ben Blake

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