James Crombie/INPHO
Comeback Kid

Brady's redemption on a night of primal scream

A game that looked as though it had veered into severely troubling territory was rescued at the death by Robbie Brady.
BLESSED. WHAT ELSE can you say?

First Jayson Molumby, then Stephen Kenny and Ireland.

Absolutely blessed.

A game that was drifting towards what seemed like an inevitable, comfortable victory swung towards the depths of utter despair due to a calamitous two minutes, which looked set to rock the manager’s tenure to its very core.

Then the drama of VAR and the penalty check which gripped Aviva Stadium and led to a kind of redemption night for Robbie Brady.

The 30-year-old trotted over to Alan Browne and took the ball from him as Ireland had their chance of reprieve approaching injury time.

Brady dealt with the no-doubt caustic goading of Eduard Spertsyan as he placed it on the spot, inhaled, then cushioned a side-footed shot beyond the hapless David Yurchenko who had dived the opposite way.

Lansdowne Road erupted, as much with relief as there was joy, and Brady sprinted to the corner flag to his right.

His Ireland teammates – back among them again for this window having last played for his country in March 2021 – didn’t just embrace him because of the importance of the goal, but also, no doubt, because of what he has been through.

Brady’s release of emotion, his weathered and flush face roaring with a kind of primal scream.

He looked close to tears.

This must have meant so much given all he had been through. It was hard not to think back to Euro 2016 – when is it not with Brady? – and the tears that did flow when he scored that wondrous header against Italy in Lille to secure passage to the last 16.

This was a very, very different kind of night.

A very different Brady. Playing left-wing back for one thing.

That nod of his forehead against the Azzurri meant so much to so many.

And while this cool spot kick would have meant the world to him given all he has endured, you can be sure it meant even more to Stephen Kenny.

A night that looked as though it had veered into severely troubling territory was rescued at the death.

As Armenia pushed and probed for what would have been a catastrophic third goal – and relegation to League C – Ireland managed to wrestle the initiative back.

The VAR check which led to the decisive penalty had the added drama of referee Rade Obrenovic being sent to the pitchside monitor.

The replays – the slow, methodical breakdown – were shown on the big screens in the stadium and a huge cheer echoed around once the first showed a clear handball.

Another worrying, enthralling – even galling – chapter of the Kenny era was written here, one which at first seemed to be one which would hardly warrant a re-read.

What’s that about familiarity breeding contempt?

Not only has John Egan now scored in successive games for Ireland, both goals have come in the 18th minute.

There was almost a similarly enjoyable quirk to Michael Obafemi’s sublime long-range finish in the 52nd, arriving just 60 seconds after he rifled in that wonder strike against Scotland in June.

michael-obafemi-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-second-goal Michael Obafemi scored Ireland's second. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

By no means same old same old.

This had the billing of relegation scrap but for long parts felt like a dead rubber, with Armenia time-wasting from as early as the fifth minute and Ireland’s play too slow in between their two goals.

Victory here was expected, and although it arrived it came with more questions.

Egan’s snapshot against Scotland at Hampden bore all the hallmarks of a clinical striker in the box, this header to break the deadlock against Armenia owing as much to his subtle movement to earn the space to climb highest.

Once the ball nestled in the net so soon it felt as if there was a collective sigh of relief – as much as celebration – that the same tactics of frustration from Yerevan would not pay dividends here.

Yet there were still grumblings that the early tempo and positivity which Ireland took from the first whistle seemed to waiver once going ahead.

They didn’t have to chase the game and when Obafemi struck it seemed like the job was done.

Far from it.

Those maddening moments in which Ireland switched off, left themselves exposed on the counter attack and also gave away possession so sloppily, should not be easily forgotten.

Brady had the final say with his penalty but there is still much to discuss.

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