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'A Championship team in international shirts' - the Scottish media reaction to yesterday's game

The visiting reporters were less than impressed with the standard of football.

Daryl Murphy had a point to prove against Scotland.
Daryl Murphy had a point to prove against Scotland.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

THE SCOTTISH MEDIA were understandably in upbeat form following Scotland’s 1-1 draw with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

The Daily Record described the match as “a game of two halves,” adding that Scotland “remain on course for France next summer”.

The paper’s reporter, Gary Ralston, wrote:

“Ireland pocketed five million euros from FIFA for Thierry Henry’s handball that knocked them out of the World Cup in South Africa five years ago.

“This time, they enjoyed a huge slice of luck with a controversial first-half opener from Stoke striker Jonathan Walters that was a yard offside.”

Nonetheless, they added that the goal had been coming, while pointing to a half-time substitution as being key to Scotland’s comeback.

“In truth, it was a goal the Irish deserved as they looked hungrier and more aggressive in the opening period, even if Marshall was rarely rattled.

“However, Scotland’s fortunes improved from the moment they added width and pace with the introduction of Ikechi Anya at half-time after the Watford frontman was surprisingly left on the bench by Gordon Strachan.”

Herald Scotland, meanwhile, sensed “desperation” in the Irish team’s play, while indicating Daryl Murphy had a point to prove after his past failure at Celtic.

“This was a wounded Republic of Ireland team, playing with a desperation that betrayed how much they needed this result, even if they almost let their emotions spill over at times. McCarthy got the benefit of the doubt from Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli when he led with an arm in an aerial tussle with Russell Martin, catching him on the nose with the point of his elbow.

“Neil Lennon-era Celtic spent around £1m on the talents of Daryl Murphy, only to be rewarded with a paltry return of nine starts and three goals, but this was an act of vengeance on the Scottish game. Now 32, he racked up an outstanding 27 goals for an Ipswich side which failed in the play-offs, and when balls are flashing across your box like they did yesterday he can be an effective customer.”

Reporting for The Guardian, Ewan Murray feels Martin O’Neill is under significant pressure following the result.

“Albeit outside of his pronounced time frame, O’Neill was needing victory here against an apparently resurgent Scotland. He needed it all right, not only to keep alive the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of progression to Euro 2016 but to remove the unavoidable sense that O’Neill’s career is destined to peter out in an insipid fashion that seemed so unlikely for so long. This scene, this movie, could never have been factored into the grand plan.

“11 years ago the notion of O’Neill coaching what is essentially a Championship team in international shirts was ludicrous. Not so on a June evening in Dublin where he was seeking to invigorate an Irish campaign and move the narrative away from one of disquiet towards the FAI’s chief executive, John Delaney.”

In The Daily Telegraph, Roddy Forsyth said the performance was Scotland’s “poorest” of the campaign so far, and suggested there were positives for Ireland to take from the first half.

“Even on the rare occasion when the Scots could make cohesive progress upfield, they could not get the ball to stick at the top of the team, where Fletcher could not establish a connection with either Steven Naismith or Maloney. In contrast, O’Neill’s decision to prefer Daryl Murphy rather than Shane Long was proving increasingly troublesome for Scotland, who struggled to deal with Wes Hoolahan’s work in the pockets of space around the striker.

“As half-time approached, the Scots nourished hope that they could make the dressing room unscathed — a development which would not have reflected the Republic’s superiority in every department. Fate, however, played fair and granted the green and white massed ranks the breakthrough they craved.”

Writing for BBC Sport Scotland, Tom English described how there was “an inescapable sense of relief” among the Scottish players after the game, given their below-par performance, adding:

“Scotland were being bullied and then Scotland were being beaten. The goal when it came told you much about their plight. A corner and a free header for Daryl Murphy. Then a save from David Marshall and a tap-in for Walters.

“Where were the Scots? Where was the desire to clear that ball? Lack of hunger is not a charge that is easily levelled at this team, but when Robbie Brady swung in that corner the Scots were passive when the Irish were alert and forceful.

“It was painfully easy and it was coming. The Republic are a very average side but even average sides can make it pay when the opposition has a death-wish.”

Finally, The Scotsman continued the Championship parallels, suggesting the football on show was less than exemplary.

“There was certainly an English Championship flavour to the proceedings across the two teams. The more uncharitable would extend that to the quality of the football likely to be produced in a British-style derby. Perhaps mindful of the hustle and bustle, or perhaps as an act of desperation, Republic of Ireland manager O’Neill produced a wild card by giving 32-year-old Daryl Murphy a first competitive start for his country. At Ipswich Town this season, Murphy has been a free-scoring forward… At international level, with no goals in 14 appearances, he has been more like the centre-forward of his fallow Celtic period.”

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Paul Fennessy

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