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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 9 August, 2020

Seven Ireland newcomers and a cameo from Celtic great Larsson as Scott Brown's testimonial ends in draw

An Ireland XI played the Scottish treble-winners at Celtic Park today.

Left to right: Alan Browne, Scott Brown and Sean Maguire.
Left to right: Alan Browne, Scott Brown and Sean Maguire.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Celtic 2

Ireland XI 2

PLENTY OF new faces and an enjoyable occasion for players and fans, but there wasn’t a huge amount more for Martin O’Neill to take away from Ireland’s meeting with Celtic.

Played at a canter, Scott Brown’s testimonial ended all-square in Glasgow after Ireland twice took the lead — through Alan Browne and an own goal — before the Scottish Premiership champions hit back thanks to Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts.

There was a laid-back, party atmosphere at Parkhead as Hoops supporters celebrated their captain’s 11 trophy-laden years at the club. The friendly, which wasn’t an official, Fifa-approved fixture meaning no international caps are awarded, also came just 24 hours after Celtic had clinched the double-treble by defeating Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final.

Skipper Brown was the only player who began that game at Hampden Park to be named in Brendan Rodgers’ line-up, while his former team-mate Charlie Mulgrew of Blackburn Rovers made an appearance, with Swedish legend Henrik Larsson on the bench.

Celtic v Republic of Ireland - Scott Brown Testimonial Match - Celtic Park Brown and his kids receive applause. Source: Jeff Holmes

O’Neill — returning to the club he managed to three titles, three Scottish Cups, a league cup and the Uefa Cup final — brought over an inexperienced squad and named three newcomers in his team.

Defensive pair Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams, who both ply their trade at Blackburn Rovers, lined out at senior level for the first time and made up a backline alongside Brentford’s John Egan and captain Seamus Coleman.

Millwall’s Shaun Williams also made his unofficial debut in the centre of the park, while Preston striker Sean Maguire was given the chance to stake a claim with experienced duo Jon Walters and James McClean also in attack.

Jack Hendry and James McClean Celtic's Jack Hendry and James McClean contest for the ball. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With places in the squad up for grabs, the Ireland players appeared eager to impress from the off and took the lead with six minutes on the clock. O’Dowda pounced on a loose pass out of the back by guest player Mulgrew and Browne capitalised to stroke home a bending left-footed strike for his first international goal.

Last night’s celebrations may have taken their toll on the Celtic players, but just before the half-hour mark they did conjure up their first real goalscoring opportunity. Griffiths used his pace to get beyond Lenihan and force goalkeeper Colin Doyle into a solid stop.

After McClean and Maguire had both found the sidenetting and with half-time quickly approaching, the hosts drew level. Good work by Eboue Koussi saw him go past Browne and pick out Griffiths, who found the bottom corner first time.

Ireland would restore their advantage on 58 minutes as a well-hit 25-yard shot by O’Dowda struck the bar and went in off the back of substitute goalkeeper Ross Doohan.

O’Neill then made a raft of changes as Shamrock Rovers attacker Graham Burke, Preston forward Callum Robinson and ex-St Patrick’s Athletic keeper Conor O’Malley, now of Peterborough United, were given their first taste in an Ireland shirt, while Greg Cunningham of Preston and Wolves wide man Matt Doherty also entered the fray.

However, O’Malley’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of the back of the net as Roberts, playing his last game for Celtic after a two-and-a-half year loan spell from Manchester City, made it 2-2 with a deflected strike.

Celtic great Larsson received one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon upon his introduction and the 46-year-old was denied a goal by O’Malley on his return to Paradise after neat build-up play.

Celtic v Republic of Ireland - Scott Brown Testimonial Match - Celtic Park Larsson tries his luck. Source: Jeff Holmes

While Doohan saved an effort from Maguire, Robinson missed out on capping his maiden international appearance with a goal after heading a yard outside the post. Sheffield United full-back Enda Stevens was Ireland’s final substitution, and Larsson sent a free-kick high and wide down.

The man of the moment, Brown, was withdrawn in the closing minutes to allow him a fitting reception, and Ireland will surely be given tougher tests by France and the US in the coming weeks.

CELTIC: De Vries (Doohan 46), Hendry, Simunovic, Mulgrew (Larsson 62), Miller (Tierney 77), Brown (c) (McGregor 88), Kouassi (R Hendry 46), Johnston, Roberts (Ntcham 72), Sinclair, Griffiths (Dembele 77).

IRELAND XI: Doyle (O’Malley 61), Coleman (c), Egan (Doherty 61), Lenihan (Stevens 72), D Williams (Cunningham 61), O’Dowda, Browne, S Williams (Burke 61), McClean, Walters (Robinson 61), Maguire.

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A beautiful finish from Alan Browne put Ireland ahead against Celtic

O’Neill hands out three debuts in Ireland XI team to face Celtic

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Ben Blake

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