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brennan's brief Forget about tonight's Ronaldo show, it's Sunday’s game against Luxembourg that's the real test for Ireland


Cristiano Ronaldo broke Irish hearts in their last meeting (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo broke Irish hearts in their last meeting (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo broke Irish hearts in their last meeting (Isabel Infantes/PA)

After almost two years without a big football occasion at the Aviva Stadium, almost 52,000 Irish football fans will turn up in Dublin Four tonight to see the Boys in Green playing – and to see Cristiano Ronaldo in the flesh too.

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t take the chance to see one of the greatest footballers there has ever been strut his stuff in Dublin. The price Ireland may pay for that thrill could well be defeat tonight, but that’s just the way of the world.

In the World Cup qualifiers, you are always going to meet a top nation and, often, a really top player too. Remember Germany skinning Ireland 6-1 on their way to qualifying for, and winning, the 2014 World Cup.

We prefer to remember Shane Long’s goal against the same opponents in 2015 instead, showing that the mighty can fall in Dublin.

And Ireland can have a go tonight. After a period when the team just could not buy a goal, Stephen Kenny is entitled to point out that his side has actually scored 14 times in their last seven matches.

Neither Kenny nor Ireland will be judged on what happens tonight. Portugal need to win the match in order to give themselves the best chance of automatic qualifying and they have the talent aboard, even without the injured Manchester City man Bernardo Silva, to beat any team in the world.

There are few enough other international sides who could afford to leave a player like Atletico Madrid’s €100million striker Joao Felix on the bench on a regular basis. But when you’ve got Ronaldo and Diogo Jota you can.

No, it is rather Sunday’s game against Luxembourg that will be the true test for Ireland. Has Stephen Kenny turned his ship around so that he can win that match, eight months after losing to the Luxembourgers in Dublin? That is the real task of the next few days for the Irish team. For tonight, enjoy seeing one of the best there has ever been grace the Aviva turf.

Lionel Messi played in the stadium a decade ago, in 2021 we finally get to see Ronaldo at Ireland’s football HQ.

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