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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

How Daryl Murphy put aside bad news at club level to produce his most influential display in a green jersey

The Newcastle star made a big impact after being introduced in the second half against Austria.

Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy (right) and Austria's Julian Baumgartlinger battle for the ball
Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy (right) and Austria's Julian Baumgartlinger battle for the ball
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

FOR A LARGE part of Sunday’s game between Ireland and Austria, many fans and pundits were calling for one particular substitution — the introduction of the gifted Wes Hoolahan.

And while Hoolahan did replace Harry Arter in the 71st minute, it was another change that would define the game’s final third.

Daryl Murphy’s introduction in place of Stephen Ward on 56 minutes played a big part in swinging the game in Ireland’s favour.

The Boys in Green had already switched to a 4-4-2 by then, but crucially, the substitution meant James McClean went from his brief second-half change to a striker back to the left-wing, while Robbie Brady reverted to left-back.

The Burnley star had looked lethargic and off his game in the first half, but delivered an improved display after moving to a more defensive role.

Jon Walters, having been isolated at times in the first 45 minutes, no longer had to shoulder the burden of leading the attack on his own.

With Murphy joining the Stoke star, Ireland really began to put pressure on the Austrian defence.

The Waterford native deserves enormous credit for his role in helping to inspire Ireland’s fightback. He is not the most gifted or prolific of players, as his tally of one goal in 26 Ireland appearances suggests, but a footballer with his height and physicality tends to be a substantial asset given the way Ireland play.

Murphy has impressed before in games against Italy, Bosnia and Serbia, against whom he headed home a vital equaliser.

Yet the 34-year-old deserves particular credit for his influential display against the Austrians, given that he presumably would not have been going into the match in an especially positive mindset.

After helping guide Newcastle to promotion to the Premier League this season, Murphy was recently told he is surplus to requirements at St James’ Park.

A lesser footballer would have sulked and let the bad news affect him on Sunday and in the days leading up to the game, but instead Murphy produced an admirable display — arguably his most influential and important performance in a green shirt to date.

With just Jon Walters as the lone striker, Ireland struggled. The 33-year-old Stoke man, for all his well-documented qualities, lacks both the electric pace of Shane Long and the presence of Murphy.

Right from the outset, Ireland hoofed hopeful balls in Walters’ direction, and in the first-half, this tactic seldom paid off.


While Murphy’s introduction gave Ireland a greater aerial threat and further options in attack, the 34-year-old was not used purely to spearhead an aerial bombardment on the Austrian goal.

On a couple of occasions, he helped link up the play and gave Ireland greater attacking momentum, as in the clip below.


Murphy’s main purpose, however, was to cause the Austrian defence problems, and he succeeded in this aim.

Check out the clip below where he nearly gets on the end of a Shane Duffy header from Cyrus Christie’s inviting free kick.


Without being particularly quick or skillful, Murphy was highly effective. Watch below and notice the panic in the Austrian defence caused by the striker’s mere presence, as not for the first or last time, a long ball prompted nervousness within the visitors’ ranks after Jon Walters’ initial flick-on.


Walters himself seemed much more comfortable and confident as part of a two-man attack, with someone else there to do plenty of the running and thankless chasing of overhit long balls on his behalf.

Ireland were suddenly creating chances and Murphy was invariably at the heart of it — this layoff to set up a Harry Arter attempt being a prime example.


On another day, Murphy could have had a hand in not one but two Ireland goals.

Another lofted ball in by Christie created further panic in the Austrian defence, and Stefan Lainer was fortunate not to be penalised owing to a reckless tug on the Newcastle player’s jersey.


Furthermore, for the disallowed goal, it was Murphy’s header that originally put the Austrians in grave difficulty, before Shane Duffy was penalised for leading with his arm, as the Derry native over-enthusiastically attempted to get the ball over the line.


Moreover, Murphy was useful down the other end too. Despite predominantly playing as a striker, he was not afraid to put in a defensive shift and frequently took up deep positions such as the one indicated in the image below.



In addition, putting Brady at left-back, a change instigated by the Murphy introduction, also improved Ireland as a team, with the Burnley star playing with greater confidence and purpose as a result.

The 25-year-old Dubliner provided the assist for the goal, and while many will claim it was just a fortuitous punt upfield leading Ireland to get lucky, there is evidence to the contrary.

Indeed, Brady had tried that long pass to Walters while simultaneously exploiting the space in behind the Austrian defence on a separate occasion minutes before the goal. Check out his attempt in the clip below.


And if you carefully watch the footage in the build-up to the all-important 85th-minute goal, you will notice Brady having a quick look to see what is in front of him before playing the inch-perfect long ball for the decisive equaliser.

Ultimately, Walters grabbed the headlines owing to his inspired finish, but it was the initial substitution of Murphy in place of Ward that created the conditions for this wonderful moment to occur.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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