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Dublin: 5°C Saturday 5 December 2020

3 talking points from Ireland's dour 0-0 draw with England

The first clash between the sides on Irish soil for over 20 years was an ultimately dour affair.

Ireland's David McGoldrick and Gary Cahill of England compete for the ball.
Ireland's David McGoldrick and Gary Cahill of England compete for the ball.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Was this the least intense Ireland-England game ever?

SUPPORTERS HOPING FOR a good old-fashioned tough-tackling battle for bragging rights will have been disappointed by today’s match.

Instead of an attritional encounter, fans were treated to a tactical game of chess, or as many might call it, a snore draw, amid a subdued atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium.

The game was played at quite a slow tempo for much of the 90 minutes — a common characteristic of these type of non-competitive end-of-season games.

Nevertheless, Martin O’Neill is unlikely to be too concerned by the result or manner of the performance.

Instead, the Ireland manager will have likely viewed this afternoon as an opportunity to give a few of his players — particularly the Championship-based footballers — some much-needed game time before the far more important clash with Scotland next week.

Wes Hoolahan conspicuous by his absence

One of the clear issues with Ireland’s team today was the lack of creativity in midfield.

James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Glenn Whelan all rarely looked to get forward and impose themselves on the game with safe, conservative passing all too prevalent.

Wes Hoolahan showed against Poland and on many other occasions that he is one player willing to try something different and capable of unlocking the defence.

Consequently, the Norwich man’s absence (he was named on the bench but tellingly missed training the other day) was keenly felt, as Ireland looked short of ideas in attack, save for one rather unsophisticated tactic — the long punt up to Daryl Murphy.

What can we take from today’s game for the Scotland match?

There were a few positives to take from today’s game, even if the occasion proved slightly underwhelming ultimately.

Although it would be hard to argue that many players impressed from either side, Martin O’Neill will be somewhat satisfied with the relatively assured performances of the team’s more inexperienced players, such as Harry Arter and Keiren Westwood.

Robbie Brady also had an encouraging outing in a left-back role that he is still adjusting to and learning about. The Hull youngster kept highly-touted opposition winger Raheem Sterling (who was roundly booed throughout by Irish fans) fairly quiet, while he also showed impressive prowess from dead-ball situations.

Yet those minor positives and the game time given to players lacking match sharpness aside, there won’t be much that O’Neill can take from this match that he didn’t know already ahead of the all-important Scotland encounter.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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