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Brennan's Brief Unless Irish stars get moves to top clubs, there will always be a gap when they play against top players

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Gavin Bazunu made an important stop to deny Cristiano Ronaldo late on (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gavin Bazunu made an important stop to deny Cristiano Ronaldo late on (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gavin Bazunu made an important stop to deny Cristiano Ronaldo late on (Brian Lawless/PA)

After the excitement of scoring seven goals in four days last month, it was back to normal for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland as they produced a 0-0 scoreline against Portugal.

Of course, this wasn’t a bad 0-0, it was against Portugal, or at least half of Portugal, with their manager Fernando Santos opting to go without a quintet of players who were a yellow card away from missing the match against Serbia on Sunday that will settle Portugal’s World Cup fate.

But Ireland played well in this one, mixing time on the ball with long balls and nice touches of skill from Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Ireland. Using wing-backs, which is now what Kenny favours for his team, asks an awful lot of the two players. They have to be there to help at the back and they are supposed to be creators too for the forwards.

But wing-backs are normal in Portuguese football and Santos knew well to press hard on both Matt Doherty and Enda Stevens. The result, neither man got into the match at all, rarely producing a telling cross that Ireland might have profited from.

Robinson produced some deft skill at times, but he never got the one killer pass from a colleague that might have allowed the West Brom man do real damage.

Then again, too many of Ireland’s players were guilty of poor touches and poor passing last night. We just hadn’t got the technical skill of our visitors and that will be an issue for Kenny’s Ireland going forward.

Unless our players get moves to the top clubs, whether in Britain or Europe, there will always be a technical gap when the national team comes to play another top team – as we will in the Euro qualifiers in 2023.

But the only loser in Dublin was Portugal defender Pepe, whose late red card means he won’t play against Serbia. After all the planning and scheming by Santos he’s one shy for Sunday. But he’ll still have Cristiano Ronaldo and that will probably be enough.

Ireland go to Luxembourg on the same evening, hoping to finish a disappointing qualifying campaign on a high with a win.

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