| 8.2°C Dublin

Finland v Ireland Search will still go on for Kenny's first win

Nations League: Rep of Ireland 0 Wales 0

Close

The Republic of Ireland’s Jayson Molumby holds off the challenge of Wales’ Aaron Ramsey

The Republic of Ireland’s Jayson Molumby holds off the challenge of Wales’ Aaron Ramsey

SPORTSFILE

The Republic of Ireland’s Jayson Molumby holds off the challenge of Wales’ Aaron Ramsey

An unprecedented day when, for the Ireland manager, finding 11 fit and available players to field a team for a competitive international was, in itself, something of an achievement.

The outcome was precedented and predictable, another draw, the fourth in five games for the Republic and we know that if better times are to come, we'll be made wait for them.

There were more encouraging signs of the progress Kenny is keen to make and games like this 0-0 draw with Wales will make Jayson Molumby from a budding talent into an established one while decent crosses from James McClean and Enda Stevens also showed that Ireland can be reasonable creative but are just not clinical.

Given the circumstances, Kenny will be reasonably pleased with the yesterday's work in Lansdowne Road. He is keen to inject pace into an Irish side which has looked leggy for some time but due to circumstances beyond his own control, pace and youth had to be sacrificed.

This was not the new-look Ireland that Kenny would have envisioned: five of the starting XI were in their 30s, and aside from the 21-year-old Jayson Molumby the youngest player in green was 28.

But what he has to work out is how change what's needed. To paraphrase the occupant of the White House, to Make Ireland Score Again.

As happened on Thursday in Bratislava, the Irish side managed to get into good positions, pass the ball better than in recent times, take the risks that were not taken before and had chances to score.

But again, Ireland pay the price for an inability to convert chances. There were good scoring opportunities in the second half, a header from Shane Long and a double effort from Daryl Horgan, but the back of the net remained free of worry.

And, once again, an opposition goalkeeper has gone away from a battle with Ireland without working up too much of a sweat. It's a problem Kenny has inherited, not created: the side has scored twice in the last seven competitive games, both scored by defenders.

Unless there is a dramatic upswing in Helsinki on Wednesday and in the final two games of the campaign next month, picking Ireland's goal of the year for 2020 will be both painful and painfully easy.

With so much pre-match focus on the Covid-related absentees, it was easy to forget that this patched-up Ireland team had a game to play, against a decent-looking Wales side who had enjoyed back to back wins in the Nations League so far.

An Irish side made up exclusively of Irish-born players (for the first time in 45 years) and the presence of players from Swansea City, Cardiff City and Bristol City in the Welsh XI made this look very much like something from 1975. A Life On Mars style trip back in time, football style.

Despite the presence of experience in the Ireland side and some burgeoning Premier League talent for Wales like Harry Wilson (Liverpool), Daniel James (Manchester United) and Matthew Smith (Manchester City) it was a tame enough opening, though tackles would soon start to fly leading to a penalty appeal for Wales, an eye injury to Kevin Long which ended his day prematurely, and then McClean's dismissal.

It took Ireland until the 18th minute to work up a movement of note, good work from Shane Long giving possession to Jeff Hendrick out wide but the ball in, for Matt Doherty, was wasted

Ireland had two corners in the space of a minute, both taken by Robbie Brady and both aimed at Shane Duffy's head but, again, no chance of note.

Early on, Kevin Long's day was over, unable to continue after his head met with the boot of Moore and Cyrus Christie was called on.

The home side had a decent move on 33 minutes, shades of the Robbie Brady of old when he advanced on goal and took aim but his effort was wide of the target.

Christie with his two goals from his previous 24 caps, is actually considered a high scoring player, in Ireland terms, and he had an opportunity just before the break but was wide of the target.

Wales were a touch sharper after the break but, like Ireland, lacked conviction in the danger areas.

Ireland looked most like scoring on 55 minutes. Hendrick emerged from midfield and spread the play in the direction of McClean.

Ethan Ampadu tried to block but only managed to gift the ball to McClean, who spotted Enda Stevens and his cross into the box was well-made for Shane Long but his header was not of the standard required.

Wales were enjoying longer spells of possession but lacked the cutting edge to make the most of it, Ramsey's effort deflected out for a corner on 72 minutes.

Ireland, with new energy off the bench from Seán Maguire and Daryl Horgan, had another chance 12 minutes from time. McClean worked himself into a good position out on the left and whipped in a cross which Horgan managed to connect with but his first effort, a header, was saved by Hennessy and from the rebound, Horgan shot over the bar.

Ireland didn't even see out the game with 11 men, McClean shown his second yellow for a clumsy challenge on Ampadu.

Herald