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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 12 July, 2020

Ireland deserve 'a little bit of leeway' for lacklustre display against Gibraltar

Ray Houghton reckons the uninspiring performance was somewhat understandable after a long season.

Ray Houghton pictured this afternoon at the launch of the National Football Exhibition at the University of Limerick.
Ray Houghton pictured this afternoon at the launch of the National Football Exhibition at the University of Limerick.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WHILE ACCEPTING THAT improvement is needed, former Republic of Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton wasn’t hugely concerned by the uninspiring performance from the Boys in Green in last night’s win against Gibraltar.

Mick McCarthy’s side, who are top of Group D in Euro 2020 qualifying, laboured to a 2-0 victory over the minnows in Dublin thanks to Joseph Chipolina’s 29th-minute own goal and a stoppage-time header from Robbie Brady.

The win came just 72 hours after Ireland ground out a 1-1 draw against Denmark in Copenhagen. At the end of a long season, Houghton believes fatigue may have contributed to the frustrating fare that was served up at the Aviva Stadium last night.

“I’d give the players a little bit of leeway after such a huge effort on Friday night,” Houghton said. “I thought they defended magnificently [against Denmark]. There were a lot of good signs from the lads. The shape of the team was very good and the workrate was phenomenal in the way that they covered each other.”

Ireland’s qualification bid will resume with the visit of Switzerland on 5 September. Trips to face both the Swiss and Georgia will follow in October, before the campaign concludes in November with a home game against Denmark. 

As for the performance against Gibraltar, Houghton added: “Can we work on the final ball? Absolutely. Did players make the wrong decisions by shooting when they should have passed, or crossing when they should have been doing something else? Absolutely.

Shane Duffy celebrates Ireland's Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy acknowledge the supporters after last night's game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“But I’d give them a little bit of leeway. It’s not a tap that you can switch on and off, and then it’s going to be fine. Some of the lads last night were coming to the end of a very long, hard season. Some of them will only have a two-week break after last night before they have to go back training. It’s not easy.

“I think it was just about getting the job done, thanks very much, and let’s look forward to the next four matches, which are going to be very, very tough.”

Houghton, who was speaking at the launch of the National Football Exhibition at the University of Limerick today, cited the recent Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur to support his point 

He explained: “Two of the best teams in England played wonderful football all season but they didn’t really perform, did they? Neither one of them put on a real performance of what they had done during the course of the season. It was just about getting the win. That was very similar last night. 

“I think Friday night may have taken a little bit out of the boys’ legs, just looking at it personally. But last night was just about getting over the line, getting a win and getting ourselves into a position where we’ve got 10 points from four games. 

“We’ve got four really tough games coming up, but at least they’re during the course of a season, when the lads will be fresher and ready for whatever comes their way.”

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Paul Dollery

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