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4 winners and 2 losers from the Ireland-Scotland game

Martin O’Neill and others whose stock has fallen after yesterday’s result.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was left with plenty to ponder after his side's draw with Scotland.
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was left with plenty to ponder after his side's draw with Scotland.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

Updated at 12.11

Winnners

1. Robbie Brady

THE MAKESHIFT LEFT-BACK justified Martin O’Neill’s faith in him with a man-of-the-match display against Scotland.

Not only did Brady bounce back from a nervy performance against Poland last March with a second consecutive defensively solid outing (he was also excellent in keeping Raheem Sterling and co quiet against England), he was extremely efficient going forward, with his impressive set-piece delivery posing regular problems for the opposition defence and creating the opening goal to boot.

With few other alternatives in the position, it seems Martin O’Neill has solved the problematic left-back dilemma for now, at least.

Furthermore, Brady’s next move will surely be attempting to escape relegated Hull and make a swift return to the Premier League at club level, with the former Man United youngster linked with a switch to newly promoted Norwich in recent weeks.

2. Gordon Strachan

The Scottish manager’s stock has undoubtedly risen in recent times in light of the fantastic job he is doing at the helm of his country of birth.

Following a difficult stint at Middlesbrough in an otherwise relatively successful managerial career, Strachan is inching closer to helping Scotland secure their first spot at a major tournament since World Cup 98 and first qualification for the Euros since 1996.

For years, the Scots have looked some way short of qualifying from the group stages, but Strachan has suddenly made them very difficult to beat — even Germany, the one team who managed to get the better of the Tartan Army, did so in less than convincing circumstances, with Scotland unfortunate not to come away with at least a draw from their opening encounter.

Yesterday may not have been their best performance — in fact, the media largely agreed it was their worst of the campaign thus far — but their ability to come away with a point regardless is an indication of the grit and resilience Strachan has implemented within the group.

3. Daryl Murphy

Russell Martin and Daryl Murphy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Martin O’Neill’s selection of Daryl Murphy certainly raised eyebrows on Saturday, with few people tipping the Ipswich player to start beforehand.

In the Scottish media in particular, there was some surprise, given that the striker flopped following a £1million move to Celtic earlier in his career.

Yet the Waterford native appeared to carry the confidence that saw him score 25 league goals for his club this season into Saturday’s game, as he caused the visitors’ back four plenty of problems and ultimately had a hand in Ireland’s goal.

At 32, he is unlikely to be considered a long-term solution for Ireland up front, but his performance on Saturday suggested he is more than capable of leading the line at international level for this campaign at least.

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4. Poland

While Poland were busy beating Georgia 4-0 yesterday, they would have been keen to learn the result of the game at the Aviva Stadium after comfortably dispensing with their beleaguered opponents.

A draw was probably the outcome they were hoping for, as it gave Robert Lewandowski and co the chance to gain further breathing space on their rivals, as they now top the group, three and five points ahead of Scotland and Ireland respectively.

With Germany still expected to claim top spot, Ireland, Poland and Scotland would each ideally love to finish second and avoid the hassle of having to qualify via the playoffs.

Meanwhile, from Ireland’s perspective, it now seems imperative that the Poles return the favour and hold Scotland to a point in order to boost Martin O’Neill’s men’s slim hopes of qualification

Losers

1. Martin O’Neill

Managers live and die by their decisions and so far during his reign, O’Neill has arguably got as much wrong as right, thereby leaving the Irish team in a perilous position currently.

The decision to take Wes Hoolahan, one of Ireland’s best and most creative players, off the pitch with 20 minutes to go was a strange one, as was the choice to start with three defensive midfielders when goals were badly needed.

It is of course harsh to judge O’Neill based on just six competitive games, but such is the fleeting nature of international football that time is a luxury coaches are seldom afforded.

For Ireland to waste a big chance to qualify for the first 24-team Euros would be highly disappointing, but this outcome now looks a distinct possibility.

Consequently, if results don’t pick up swiftly, O’Neill could come under pressure to step down after just one campaign. Given the lucrative wages the Derry native is reportedly on, the FAI may feel entitled to expect better results than the team are producing at the moment.

2. Optimists

Ann-Marie Hickey and Damien Doherty Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If you asked most fans and critics for a prediction before Saturday’s game, the two most probable responses from Ireland fans would probably be ‘draw’ and ‘1-1’.

Indeed, it’s long since become a running joke how often the Irish team ends up drawing big matches.

At Italia 90, Ireland never actually won a game (excluding penalties). In fact, for all the side’s success in the Jack Charlton era, they have only ever won three matches at major tournaments over the course of 90 minutes — England (Euro 88), Italy (World Cup 94) and Saudi Arabia (World Cup 02), coupled with numerous draws that invariably edge the team through the group stages.

It’s a similar story in qualifying campaigns, and so while Ireland badly needed a win yesterday, few were surprised by the eventual, inevitable-seeming outcome.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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