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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 9 July, 2020


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Hello! And welcome to our minute-by-minute coverage of Ireland’s crucial Uefa Nations League clash against Denmark live from the Aviva Stadium.

The word ‘Denmark’ may send shivers down a few spines, and perhaps rightly so after last year’s bitterly disappointing 5-1 play-off defeat in Dublin which ended Ireland’s hopes of making it to a World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

Since then it’s been a case of trying to build again and move on — easier said than done. Ireland’s first competitive game since last November brought with it a dismal 4-1 defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

It was the worst possible start to the Nations League for Ireland and a host of controversies since the loss have mounted serious pressure on the shoulders of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.

Seamus Coleman and James McClean Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Leaked Whatsapps, bust-ups, Harry After momentarily walking out and Declan Rice pondering his international future have meant the last couple of months have been a serious headache for anyone involved in the Irish set-up.

With all this in mind, today’s clash at home to Denmark has a lot riding on it. Granted, many see the Nations League as nothing more than renovated and glamorised friendlies. But if Ireland were to suffer two defeats, or something close to that over the next three days, the future of O’Neill and Keane could come into question.

They need positive results, Ireland need to put the recent past behind them. For an inconsequential Nations League game, there is an awful lot at stake at Landsdowne Road tonight.

Stick with us, kick-off is coming up in just over an hour at 7.45pm!

Let’s get started with the team news…

So, the two teams will line out as:

Ireland: Darren Randolph, Matt Doherty, Richard Keogh (captain), Shane Duffy, Kevin Long, Cyrus Christie, Callum O’Dowda, Harry Arter, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean, Shane Long.

Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel; Henrik Dalsgaard, Simon Kjaer, Mathias Jorgensen, Jens Stryger Larsen; Lasse Schone, Thomas Delaney; Yussuf Poulsen, Martin Braithwaite, Pione Sisto; Kasper Dolberg.


An intriguing team from Martin O’Neill tonight. He makes a number of changes from the side which drew 1-1 away to Poland last month. A game which, if not for an 87th minute equaliser, would have seen Aiden O’Brien’s first ever international goal secure a morale-boosting away win.

Matt Doherty tonight earns his first ever international start at the age of 26, however there is also room in the team for Fulham’s Cyrus Christie. The assumption would be that Doherty will play as a left-sided wing-back and Christie on the opposite flank.

O’Neill seems to, as anticipated, have opted for a 3-5-2 formation tonight with James McClean playing just behind Shane Long as a second striker. Apart from James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Robbie Brady and Jon Walters, O’Neill has all of his players available to him (well, except Delcan Rice, but let’s not go there…)

It’s a strong line-up, and it needs to be too. O’Neill and Keane have been under a lot of pressure over the last two months, both on the field of play and off it. They cannot afford a heavy defeat tonight and desperately want to bounce back from that embarrassing 4-1 loss in Cardiff.

Right, with 45 minutes to go before kick-off, which way do we see this game unfolding? Please God not another 5-1. My heart honestly couldn’t take it.

Poll Results:

Denmark win (340)
Draw, without a doubt (242)
Ireland win (225)

Some pre-game reading ahead of kick-off at 7.45pm:

“He will play in his normal position tonight.” Martin O’Neill confirms to Sky Sports that Matt Doherty will play as right wing-back tonight. That means Cyrus Christie will line up on the left. With the form that the Wolves man has been in over the last month, it would have made little sense to leave Doherty on the bench again. O’Neill has managed to fit him in, so it will be very interesting to finally see the 26-year-old Dubliner as he prepares to make his first ever start for his country. 


Early attack right from the off from Ireland. Matt Doherty gets forward good and early and gets in a good position to deliver a low cross into the box. Neither Shane Long nor James McClean were in a position to try and get a shot off, but a good attack right from the get-go nevertheless.

Ireland huddle before the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO


Now then, the way Ireland have lined up is very interesting. Arter, O’Dowda and Christie are in midfield and James McClean appears to be playing as a left-sided wing-back. This is very new territory for O’Neill and his team.


Chance! An utterly bizarre miss from Jeff Hendrick there. Harry Arter went down injured and the Danes stopped to allow the player to receive medical attention. Hendrick played on, however, nipping the ball off his opponents toes before running through on goal without a breeze. What makes it worse, however, is that he actually scuffed his shot wide. The Danes are not impressed one bit and let the Burnley midfield know all about it. God knows what would have happened if he scored.

Jeff Hendrick and Kasper Schmeichel Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Jonathan Walters has a brilliant sense of humour about it anyway! The banter is real.


Close for Ireland again as Simon Kjaer is forced to head wide for a corner kick. The deliver from Callum O’Dowda was sweet and inviting. Shane Duffy, Kevin Long and Richard Keogh all went up, but the Denmark captain did well to read the flight of the cross and end the danger.


Another attack down the left for Ireland. McClean to Hendrick, then back to McClean. The pair combine well, but the ball is eventually put out for a corner. You get the sense that a lot of the players out there are still adjusting to this new system. It’s only natural for it to take time, but it appears to be so far so good as Ireland enjoy large sways of possession and look fairly well-structured with those three huge centre backs in Duffy, Long and Keogh at the back.


A first sight at goal for Denmark as the visitors spit the ball back and forth on the edge of the box. Pione Sisto decides to have a crack at goal from distance, but the Celta Vigo man’s effort is wayward and doesn’t even come close to testing Darren Randolph. Well wide.

Cyrus Christie and Kasper Dolberg Cyrus Christie and Ajax player Kasper Dolberg. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO


A bit of worry for Randolph as the Ireland goalkeeper requires medical attention on the pitch. The Bray man came to gather following a deflected shot into the box, but felt the full force of Thomas Delaney’s boot to his head. Both men were in their right’s to go for the loose ball, but Randolph appears to be in a bit of bother.


Randolph is good to continue after being looked at by the medics, as is Callum O’Dowda who also suffered a knock. The game’s pace has dwindled a little bit over the last while, with the various challenges stopping the flow of the encounter momentarily. It’s been a decent opening 25 minutes for Ireland. It all feels a bit experimental, but very solid nonetheless.


Richard Keogh shows his frustration with Mathias Jorgensen Richard Keogh shows his frustration with Denmark's Mathias Jorgensen. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO


The game is being played at a relatively slow pace. The pitch at the Aviva Stadium seems vast and unforgiving at the moment, with players happy to take the game in their stride. Last November’s game was a world away from this, but that was a World Cup play-off and this is a Nations League B (Group 4) encounter. Bit of a difference it seems.


Close! Shane Duffy almost snatches the lead with 39 minutes on the clock. The Brighton defender rises highest out of a crowd of green and white shirts, but his header at the back cost flies just wide of the post. Very nearly.

James McClean and Shane Duffy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Calamity at the back from Matt Doherty as Ireland narrowly escape. The Wolves man tried to head clear a cross aimed towards the back post, but completely missed defender Mathias Joergensen who almost poked the ball in from behind. Doherty looked like he wanted to do the smart thing and head the danger clear for a corner.

But he completely misjudged the bounce on the ball, and was very lucky the Danish centre back didn’t make a better connection with the ball. If that ball falls to Christian Eriksen, it’s certain goal. He probably would’ve done a bicycle kick off the crossbar and all.


There we are then, half-time. A very Ireland performance so far. Not many chances, quiet enough and large passages of slow play. Ah maybe I’m being harsh. It’s a very new system from Martin O’Neill and for the most part his players have enjoyed the upper hand. Long-Keogh-Duffy looks a solid backline which offers a serious threat from set-pieces, but otherwise the Boys in Green have struggled to create chances for Shane Long up front — who has been a very isolated figure. Plenty of positives, but lets hope there’s a few more shots on goal in the second half.


There is one change for Ireland at the break as Enda Stevens comes on in place of Callum O’Dowda, who did pick up a knock during the first half. James McClean fills in for O’Dowda, with Stevens playing at left wing-back.


The atmosphere inside the Aviva Stadium has become very subdued. They always say the crowd feeds off the action on the field of play, and then the players feed off the energy from the crowd. But neither in this game is inspiring a lot of roar at the moment anyway. Denmark enjoying large sways of possession, with Ireland slotting into a 5-3-2 defensive shape to soak up pressure.

James McClean and Henrik Dalsgaard



SAVE! Harry Arter comes to Ireland’s rescue with a dramatic header off the line. Denmark captain Simon Kjaer did really well to arrow a powerful header goal-bound, but the Cardiff City midfielder was in the right place to keep Darren Randolph’s clean sheet in-tact. A great stop.


Cyrus Christie receives a yellow card after pulling Thomas Delaney back as the Borussia Dortmund man looked to edge forward and have a shot at goal. Denmark really taking command of the game now, with Ireland struggling to create any sort of chances in the final third. Don’t be too surprised if fresh striking options appear off the bench soon.


There we have it — Martin O’Neill introduces Callum Robinson off the bench to try and add a bit more potency to Ireland’s attack. The Preston striker has been doing really well for Preston this season in the Championship. Alex Neil’s side have struggled this season, but Robinson has been a standout performer. He replaces Harry Arter, who made that crucial clearance off the line a few minutes ago.

Callum Robinson Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Much better from Ireland. Shane Long heads a long, punted ball between Mathias Joergensen and  Simon Kjaer, and very neatly into the path of Robinson. The striker ran behind enemy lines just before Kjaer managed to recover and hook the ball to safety. From the resulting throw-in James McClean helps in attack with a typically robust block to keep the pressure on. A decent spell for Ireland.


SHOT! Out of the blue Ireland so very nearly snatch the lead. A brilliant attack down the left from Enda Stevens sees a cross fall to Shane Long, who then lays the ball off to Robinson. The Preston man sizes up an effort and produces a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel. It was an excellent right-footed strike smacked from outside the box, and it has succeeded in bringing the crowd back to life as the atmosphere rises inside the Aviva. The first proper attack of the whole night for Ireland. At last!

Martin O'Neill Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Denmark make their first change of the evening as Andreas Christensen comes on for his first appearance for Denmark since last summer’s World Cup in Russia. The Chelsea defender places Ajax striker Kasper Dolberg.

Denmark v France - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Group C - Luzhniki Stadium Source: Tim Goode


Ireland look like they aren’t fully content with just a point here, and with Christensen coming on to replace Dolberg it looks like Denmark would be the team content with a share of the spoils here. Martin O’Neill’s men are insistent on attacking at every opportunity now, as McClean and Long try to get possession and run directly at goal.


A third switch for O’Neill now as Shane Long is replaced by Aiden O’Brien. The Millwall man scored his first international goal on his first appearance last month against Poland. A brilliantly taken finish it was, and another would do nicely here now.


Two shots in quick succession for Denmark. Firstly, Pione Sisto cuts inside from the left wing forcing Darren Randolph to dive low and prevent the ball slipping into his bottom corner. A few moments later the always energetic Thomas Delaney fancied himself from 25 yards — striking hard and sweet with his left foot, but again finding nothing but a Randolph save. The Ireland goalkeeper has stopped everything thrown at him tonight, a really assured performance as always.

Darren Randolph and Matthew Doherty with Jens Stryger Larsen Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO


There will be two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half.


A shoulder along the touchline on James McClean gives Ireland one final chance. Jeff Hendrick stands over the free-kick and floats across towards the back, but Denmark usher the ball clear as Ireland continue to mount late pressure in search of a winner here.


There are shouts for a dramatic late penalty as Shane Duffy goes down inside the box. The Brighton defender felt he was shoved in the back as he leapt high for a header, but the referee begs to differ and books the centre back for diving. That should be that as asper Schmeichel’s free-kick will be the final act.

There we have it — a stalemate in front of a decent crowd of over 41,000 at the Aviva on a cold and brisky Nations League night. It was a decent game in the second half with a lot more chances than in the opening 45 minutes, and overall Martin O’Neill will probably be content with a point tonight. With a new 3-5-2 formation deployed and Matt Doherty making his first international start, there was plenty of adjusting throughout as players adapted to a new system.

Clear sights at goal were at a minimum as Shane Long endured a very isolated night, but in the grand scheme of things O’Neill and Roy Keane probably would have taken a draw if you offered it to them before kick-off.

Thanks a million for joining us, there is plenty more reaction to come over the coming hours. You can you read Paul Dollery’s full match report here and Paul Fennessey’s player ratings here. Cya!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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