Horgan factor good for Ireland and Captain Brady?: What we learned from tonight's game

Some talking points after Ireland's defeat to Iceland at the Aviva Stadium

BY Cian Roche 22:44 Tuesday 28 March 2017, 22:44 28 Mar 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Well, it certainly wasn't pretty, but Martin O'Neill would have made some small notes from tonight's defeat to Iceland.

Here's what we picked up on:

Limited Kevin Doyle

This might be slightly unfair on the Colorado Rapids man, considering the all-round team performance. Willing to do some of the running, but mostly ineffective.

Doesn't really offer the physical presence up front that McClean, Long or even Walters do. Had one header in the first half which showed he still has a sense of when to get into the danger area, but otherwise he didn't offer much in the way of chances.

Again, you can point to the performance, but as an experienced player within the squad he should be really impacting more on the game.

Opportunity to show O'Neill he can be a reliable back-up to long and McClean was well and truly missed. Lucky to get 90 minutes.

McGeady offering contrasting qualities

Often the case with the Preston North End player when he pulls on a green jersey. Ireland were lethargic for the opening half, showing little in the way of creativity.

For many, McGeady offers a genuine source of the creativity Ireland lack at times against Wales and to his credit he is willing to draw in players and do some of the running in-between the lines.

He didn't strike up a good partnership with Cyrus Christie and crossing was poor. Low and inaccurate, hopeful more than anything.

Shouldn't be overlooked when Ireland need an option off the bench, but in terms of chances created, he did very little to impact the game. Brings good energy to the team going forward, but delivery certainly needs to improve.

Aiden McGeady was lively, but largely ineffective on Tuesday evening. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Hourihane bypassed

Those calling for Aston Villa man Conor Hourihane to be included in the squad were treated tonight as the Cork native was named in the starting XI.

But in terms of actual impact, he had very little.

He didn't jump in the wall, which partly led to Iceland's opening goal of the game, an incident where he should really have done better. Ireland's passing from the back was not conducive to the type of game he plays and only once did he really show any promise going forward.

An Irish break after an Icelandic corner was picked up and Hourihane took possession in the middle of the park. A little look up and he fed McClean on the right wing. McClean ended up giving the ball away after stalling Irish momentum. But it was that quick thinking that allowed Ireland to show a rare threat in the opening half.

The goalkeeper and some nervous Irish defenders opted to go long in the opening half, Brady the only one really looking to play it from the back - his passes to Hayes often were returned right to him.

Ineffective, disappointing. Maybe not totally his fault, but you need your midfielders to get on the ball any way possible to try and make things happen.

Captain Brady?

Tough to blame Brady for his first half performance. Long balls kept him out of the game and when he did pass forward, Hayes often returned the ball to his feet or sent the ball backwards to another Irish defender.

However, a number of stray passes across the pitch often frustrated team-mates and time and again landed his side in trouble.

Where he does stand up he was willing to make runs forward up the pitch and helped out Hayes when he could. His set-piece ability is also well documented and has the ability to lift the team.

Good balls into McClean and Doyle offered some threat and lifted the crowd. His corners were one of the high points of the game, regularly into dangerous areas.

Leading at times, but like the Irish performance it wasn't anything special.

Captain Brady? Could we see the Burnley man leading Ireland into the final games of the World Cup qualifiers. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Horgan factor good for Ireland

The biggest cheer of the night came when fan-favourite Daryl Horgan burst onto the pitch in the second half. Robbie Brady immediately went over to talk to the Preston North End player and, barring one poor cross, he was a revelation for the Irish.

Down the left, his crossing constantly put pressure on the Iceland defence and had he had players to aim at, Ireland could easily have drawn level late on.

A willingness to get on the ball and run at defenders is a quality few Irish players possess, but tonight he showed the courage to take on all comers. In fact, his first touches of the ball came in a dribble after cutting in off the touchline.

With Horgan brings excitement and that feeling was missing for the majority of tonight's game. He may not have the experience to start him, but certainly deserves an appearance off the bench. Unpredictable, lively and not afraid to look for the ball.

Sloppy passing

The second half nearly wasn't as bad as the first - which I understand is pointing out the obvious. The quality of play was much improved in the final 30 minutes, but one thing that stood out was the quality of passing.

Mostly long balls from defenders not confident to play it out from the back, Ireland continued to surrender possession cheaply. 

Cyrus Christie more often than not put his foot through the ball in defence, regardless of what level of pressure he was under. Brady misplaced a few, including his cross-field effort.

Hourihane was known at times to do something similar, while in the final third, balls were over-hit to Kevin Doyle to chase.

McClean, even for all his pace in the opening 45, was finding it hard to make something of the service provided.

Best they work out these kinks in a friendly, but at times it seemed so relaxed and many were players trying to make a name for themselves.

We're not a slick passing nation and the long ball serves its purpose at times. But there comes a point where players have to put their foot on the ball and just look up. 

Surrendering possession for the sake of it puts the team on the back foot. Whether it was a question of concentration is hard to know. But performances like that, especially in the first half, cannot be the standard this Irish team sets.

Off The Ball


The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week