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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Coleman lies on the ground in distress after the tackle.
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Ireland's World Cup qualifier overshadowed by serious injury to captain Seamus Coleman
The full-back was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg in tonight’s 0-0 draw.

Ireland 0

Wales 0

Ben Blake reports from the Aviva Stadium 

THE WELL-BEING of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman was on everyone’s mind as the Boys in Green played out a 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

There were awful scenes during the second half as the Killybegs full-back was stretchered off the pitch in some distress after a horrific tackle from Wales full-back Neil Taylor, who was shown a straight red card.

While Coleman was sent to hospital with a suspected broken leg, Ireland took the game to Wales in the closing stages but were ultimately unable to break the deadlock.

The Irish football community united over this past week to mourn the untimely passing of Derry City captain Ryan McBride. A one club man, the 27-year-old defender was remembered — along with former FAI president Milo Corcoran and ex-Ireland international Ray Brady — with a moment’s applause before kick-off.

Travelling Welsh supporters also made a touching gesture by presenting a shirt with his name on the back to President Michael D Higgins, while James McClean wore the number five of his old friend and former Candystripes team-mate.

Much of the build-up focused on the fact that Ireland came into the match significantly depleted by injuries and the suspension of Robbie Brady. In spite of that, O’Neill named a side full of experience but short on creativity.

Midfielder James McCarthy was the major worry all week and, having seemingly won his fitness battle, the Everton man was included on the initial team sheet.

However, it was David Meyler who took his place in the starting XI when the players lined out on the pitch.

President Michael D Higgins holds up a jersey presented by Wales in tribute to Ryan McBride Tommy Dickson / INPHO President Michael D Higgins holds up the Wales jersey with Ryan McBride's name and number. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Wales boss Chris Coleman had all his big guns available and picked the same side that saw off Belgium in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 — meaning talisman Gareth Bale was given a free role behind West Brom striker Hal Robson-Kanu in a 3-5-2.

The sell-out crowd at the Aviva Stadium were treated to an extremely cagey first 45 minutes, with Ireland struggling to get hold of the ball and the visitors looking more assured in possession.

Without ball-playing midfielders such as Brady, Wes Hoolahan and Harry Arter, the gameplan was often to loft balls towards the head of loan striker Shane Long or the industrious Jon Walters and attempt to feed off the knock-downs.

While they were toothless in attack, Ireland’s first half performance was defensively solid and there were well-timed challenges from McClean, Walters, Coleman and John O’Shea.

On the half-time whistle, Glenn Whelan appeared to lead with his elbow and was lucky to escape a card after catching Stoke City team-mate Joe Allen high.

Glenn Whelan has a tussle with Joe Allen Tommy Dickson / INPHO Whelan and Allen have to be kept apart. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Wales made a like-for-like change at the break as Burnley striker Same Vokes replaced Robson-Kanu.

Bale had drifted in and out of the action during the opening half, but came alive just after the interval.

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First, his free-kick stung the hands of the Irish goalkeeper. Then, on 49 minutes, the Real Madrid star showed lightning-quick feet to make some room for himself before whipping a strike past Randolph’s post.

Just before the hour mark, Richard Keogh made contact with a corner but it wasn’t sufficient and the ball bounced harmlessly wide. Ireland grew in confidence with every minute that passed and, after good work from McClean on the right, Long volleyed wide.

But the game then took a turn for the worse on 69 minutes. Neil Taylor’s tackle on Coleman was reckless and left the Ireland skipper needing oxygen as he was carried off.

Buoyed by the extra man and an increasingly-optimistic crowd, Ireland went in search of a winner. McClean had two bites at the cherry when the ball dropped in the box but his second effort was deflected wide off a Welsh body.

The in-form Aiden McGeady was given 11 minutes plus time added on to come up with some magic after replacing Meyler, and he did succeed in injecting urgency.

Bale wasn’t quite finished and came within a whisker of rattling his shot into the top corner in the dying minutes. Down the other end, McGeady showed some trickery before firing well over and there were a couple of scrambles in the Welsh box before the full-time whistle.

The draw leaves Ireland as joint-leaders of Group D with Serbia at the halfway point, with Austria next to visit Dublin in June. Wales are four points back but Chris Coleman will be happy to take a draw given the sending off.

IRELAND: Randolph; Coleman (c) (Christie 71), Keogh, O’Shea, Ward; Whelan, Meyler (McGeady 80); Walters Hendrick, McClean; Long.

WALES: Hennessey; Davies Chester, Williams (c); Gunter, Ledley (Richards 71), Allen, Ramsey, Taylor; Bale, Robson-Kanu (Vokes 46).

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