Ireland – Qualifying Hopes
So Ireland head into the final two World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales and Ireland are still in a position to get to Russia 2018. Two wins look like being enough to secure a play off place. This seemed a long way off after 3 draws in the last few games. Ireland have blown a strong position in this group and are now fighting against the tide to secure a spot in Russia.
After there was confirmation yesterday of a verbal agreement between Martin O Neill and the FAI that he has agreed to stay on for the Euro 2020 campaign. The timing of the announcement is very strange given that O Neill and his squad face two make or break games in the space of 4 days.
The IRFU and FAI have previous in this regard, Eddie O Sullivan was given an extension before the 2007 World Cup and now Martin O Neill has given verbal agreement to a new deal less than 48 hours before two vital fixtures.
This is not good practice because it is my understanding that you have to achieve your goals before you’re rewarded and how will the FAI look next week if they do not at least secure a playoff spot for Russia. The Moldova game is first up this evening at the Aviva Stadium and if they successfully negotiate that test, they will go forward to face a Wales side minus Gareth Bale next week.
A number of Irish players are one booking away from suspension with both James Mc Clean and Robbie Brady absent from the Moldova game this evening. This situation will of course open the door for other players to see can they break into the first team for both games.
All available players have trained well all week and will be in contention to start tonight with the questions being who will start up front and in midfield. The back four looks like it picks itself and then it’s Hobson’s choice in other areas with Sean Maguire pushing for inclusion up front after a impressive start to life in the English Championship.
These two games will have a massive effect on how many players may stick around beyond the current campaign, Wes Hoolahan , John O Shea and even Jon Walters may feel that father time has crept up on them and this could be there swansong only time will tell of course. Those questions will be answered in due course.
For now though it is full steam ahead for the last two games in a campaign has had it all , wins , draws , goals and no end of big moments. For now it is time we get behind the team and see where that takes us. You never what could happen over the next few days….
Cian Mc Gibney