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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 22 April, 2019


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Good evening and welcome to our minute-by-minute coverage of this evening’s Carling Nations Cup finale between the Republic of Ireland and Scotland.

Don’t scoff, there’s international silverware at stake, something which Ireland haven’t won since their famous victory in the 1986 Icelandic Triangular Tournament. That last sentence isn’t even a joke.

I’ll have the team news for you in a second.

Ireland: Given, McShane, Ward, Kelly, O’Dea, Fahey, Lawrence, Andrews, Cox, Keane (c), Hunt.

Scotland: McGregor, Whittaker, Bardsley, Berra, Hanley, Robson, Forrest, Brown, Miller (c), Adam, Naismith.

It’s another disappointing evening at the Aviva attendance-wise. You’ll be pleased to hear that there are slightly more than 529 people here, but it still looks like a sub-10,000 crowd from where I’m sitting.

Do these people not realise that there’s silverware at stake?

“There may be more eyeballs on this blog than the match,” writes Karl.

Yup, maybe.

The teams have just arrived out onto the pitch, but I definitely have time to refresh your memory about the 1986 Icelandic Triangular Tournament. As the name suggests, there were three teams involved – Ireland, Iceland and Czechoslovakia.

Ireland beat the hosts 2-1 in the opener and then went on to beat Czechoslovakia 1-0 thanks to a Frank Stapleton goal.

I’ve no idea what the trophy looked like, sadly. If you know, please do tell me.

The national anthems are all done and dusted so we’re just about ready for action. Don’t go anywhere, I beg you.

A lovely touch before kick-off as a video tribute to the late Philip Greene is played.

We’re three minutes late by my watch, but that’s ok. We’re off now with Ireland playing from right to left.

Simon Cox is rather rudely welcomed to the game by Phil Bardsley who scythes him down over on the right flank. Stephen Hunt whips the resulting free into the box but it’s too close to McGregor who claims at the second attempt.

That may end up being the loudest cheer of the evening. Allan McGregor deals with a back-pass by shimmying inside Robbie Keane before playing it to safety, much to the delight of the travelling Scottish support behind his goal.

Simon Cox has looked lively so far. He collects Stephen Hunt’s short corner and, despite being surrounded by two defenders, he somehow shrugs them off before seeing his attemped cut-back knocked behind by Charlie Adam.

Ireland really can’t afford to allow Charlie Adam even a yard of space this evening. The Blackpool man lets the ball run across his body before drilling just over Given’s crossbar from 20 yards out. Both sides have started positively so far and – whisper it – this might actually develop into a decent enough game of football.

Stephen Kelly was caught a tiny bit flat-footed at the heart of the Irish defence there, allowing a long ball from Grant Hanley to drop over his shoulder. Kenny Miller was lurking in behind Kelly but, fortunately for Ireland, there’s just a little bit too much on the pass which goes behind for a goal kick.

Some clever, neat interplay from Ireland out on the right flank ultimately comes to nothing after Lawrence’s attempted reverse through ball catches even Robbie Keane by surprise.

Ireland have played some good stuff in this opening quarter-hour. Nutmegs by Stephen Hunt, cross-field Hollywood balls by Keith Fahey, attempted roulettes by Paul McShane. Seriously.

Oh me oh my, what a strike by Phil Bardsley from all of 40 yards out. The left-full takes two touches before unleashing a rasper which Shay Given brushes onto the crossbar with his fingertips. Great shot, great save.

Stephen Hunt has a half-chance to give Ireland to lead when the ball falls to him on the edge of the area. He tries to curl it into the bottom corner but manages to place it directly into Allan McGregor’s hands instead.

I’m telling you, this Simon Cox lad could turn out to be a very useful addition to Trap’s arsenal. Scott Brown mistimes his jump in the midfield and Cox is there, waiting to combine with Robbie Keane who finds him in space in the box. It comes to nothing ultimately, but the link play between the two and Hunt out on the left wing has been encouraging so far.

GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Scotland (Keane, 24′) Holy mother of God, somebody just swapped Paul McShane for Franz Beckenbauer. That was incredible.

McShane dispossesses Steven Naismith before jinking back inside James Forrest and haring off towards the centre of the park. He knocks the ball to Keane in the centre circle and, as he advances, the Scottish defence back off and back off until eventually, Keane has a go from the edge of the box.

He smashes it low past McGregor – who maybe could have done better – and that’s international goal number 49 for the captain.

Charles Adam gets his first opportunity to impress us with a dead-ball. He manages to clear the wall with his free-kick but it’s at a comfortable height for Given who gets across quickly to save.

I’ve just seen the replay of the goal again and, seeing as McGregor let the shot squirm under his arms, I can confirm that he should indeed have done better.

Incidentally, Keane’s goal makes him the all-time top international goalscorer in Britain and Ireland and – I think – the 14th highest international goalscorer in the world. Some achievement.

I was just about to say that it had all gone a little bit flat when Scott Brown decides to give Stephen Hunt a clatter from behind. The two spring to their feet and exchange what looks to be some form of Inuit greeting before chuckling and walking away. Seven minutes left in this first half.

Barry Robson and Steven Naismith link up on the edge of the Irish area to good effect. Naismith manages to get his shot off but Given is more than equal to it.

Kevin Donnellan has just been in touch to remind me that Keane’s goal only brings him level with Bobby Charlton who scored 49 in 106 international games. Also, seeing as 32 players have scored 50 goals for their country,  I doubt that means that he’s 14th on the all-time list.

Note to self: fire the stats guy.

HALF-TIME: Ireland 1-0 Scotland

We’re off and running again. I wonder if Robbie can get to 50 this evening, just to avoid any confusion in the post-match reports.

Fahey picks up a booking for a pretty needless trip on Naismith. I wonder if that carries over to next season’s Nations Cup? *cough*

Another lovely touch from McShane draws a foul from Charlie Adam (no, seriously) and Ireland have a free-kick out on the right about 30 yards from the Scotland goal.

Hunt takes it quickly, playing a clever little ball off the outside his boot to Cox who has the space to turn and drill a low shot across the face of McGregor’s goal. He’ll be disappointed he didn’t hit the target there.

Pretty uninspiring stuff from both sides in the opening ten minutes of this half. There’s not a lot more to say really.

Adam has a little nibble at Keane’s ankles on the edge of the box and Ireland have a free-kick in a dangerous position. Lawrence, Hunt and Andrews all look like they fancy it and, after a little bit of jiggery-pokery, Lawrence rolls it to Andrews who drills it through the crowd, the ball taking a nick off one of the onrushing defenders before flying past the right post.

A couple of changes, one for each side. Coleman comes on for Lawrence, while Bannon replaces Charlie Adam for Scotland.

There’s a big appeal for a penalty from the Scottish fans behind Shay Given’s goal, but referee Mark Whitby is having none of it. Robson swung a cross in from the left and as Naismith and McShane went for the ball, the Scot took a bit of a tumble. He says he was pushed, the referee says he fell.

Darren O’Dea makes way for Kevin Foley.

Cox twists and turns and twists and turns in an attempt to get free in the box but, eventually, he takes one twist too many and ends up running the ball out of play.

He’s only been on the pitch a couple of minutes, but Kevin Foley picks up a booking for bundling Forrest to the ground. Robson swings the resulting free deep into Shay Given’s six-yard box but Stephen Kelly rises highest to clear the danger.

Cox and Keane have combined well this evening but the West Brom man didn’t quite read his skipper’s intentions there. Keane tries to pull the ball back from the by-line but there’s nobody home.

Two big chances for Scotland there. Firstly, there’s another big penalty shout as Kenny Miller gets himself tangled with Stephen Hunt and goes down. Incensed by the referee’s decision, he chases him down and receives a yellow card for his trouble. All I’ll say is that I’ve seen them given.

Then, a glorious opportunity for Steven Naismith who drifted in behind Stephen Kelly and found himself totally unmarked eight yards out but could only scuff his shot wide as he fell backwards.

And then, another half-chance for Miller who beat McShane to a header inside the box and, as the ball dropped, very nearly managed to lift it over Given from the tightest of angles. The keeper just about managed to get a touch though, enough to knock the ball away from the goal.

Ireland really are under the cosh here with eight minutes to go. A draw will do them though.

Another glorious chance for Scotland and to be fair, Kenny Miller does absolutely everything right, except for score. He uses his strength to hold off Stephen Kelly on the edge of the box, curling the ball perfectly around Given. Inches past the right post.

Into three minutes of injury time here. It’s all Scotland and Ireland are hanging on.

A minute of injury time left to play. Rather than return the ball to Scotland for their free, Keith Andrews hoofs it into the crowd. He’s booked, unsurprisingly.

FULL TIME: Ireland 1-0 Scotland

So there you have it. The Republic of Ireland win the Carling Nations Cup, their first international silverware since the Icelandic Triangular Tournament in 1986.

Say what you like about it, a trophy is a trophy.

I’ve never seen a group of players look so nonplussed about winning a trophy. The stadium PA here at the Aviva sounds like he cares far more than any of the Irish team.

To be fair, they look like they care a little bit as Robbie lifts the trophy, the streamers explode, and the champagne is sprayed. I think it’s still safe to say that the party tonight won’t be that wild though.

No official word on the attendance here tonight. It’s probably somewhere in the region of 20k and those who have bothered to turn out seem genuinely delighted to see the lads win a trophy.

That’s all from me. It was by no means a vintage game but it had its moments. At the very least, it should give Trap a good indicator of the resources at his disposal and the areas he needs to work on ahead of the trip to Skopje next week.

I’m off to see if there are any sandwiches left in the media working room. Thanks for stopping by. Misery loves company etc etc.


About the author:

Niall Kelly