5 talking points ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Qatar
The Republic of Ireland face World Cup hosts Qatar in Debrecen on Tuesday evening desperate to restore a little pride after their qualifier humiliation at the hands of Luxembourg.
Under-pressure manager Stephen Kenny’s squad has been ripped apart by injuries once again, but he needs a win at the 11th time of asking if he is to inspire faith in what he is trying to do.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game.
Win at all costs
Kenny’s statistics to date make for poor reading. His 10 games in charge have yielded three draws and seven defeats, most notably the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final reverse in Slovakia in a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out, and the blanks drawn at the start of the new World Cup qualifying campaign against Serbia and, more surprisingly, Luxembourg. Victory over Qatar would provide scant consolation, but a win is a win.
Give us a goal
Ireland had gone 11 hours and 18 minutes without a single goal when Alan Browne headed them into the lead in Serbia, and James Collins doubled the dose at the death in a 3-2 defeat. However, they had managed just one more in their previous eight fixtures and have scored more than twice in a single game on only two occasions – 3-1 friendly wins over Bulgaria and New Zealand in 2019 – since beating Uruguay by the same score in June 2017.
Third time lucky?
Kenny handed 21-year-old Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers the task of replacing the injured Darren Randolph in Serbia, but turned to teenager Gavin Bazunu – on loan at Rochdale from Manchester City – for the clash with Luxembourg four days later. With Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher having departed through injury, Burton’s Kieran O’Hara is the remaining member of the goalkeeping triumvirate and he will hope his time has come.
Return of the old guard
The manager’s options for the qualifiers were limited to an extent by the lack of football some of his more experienced players had under their belts when they reported for duty. Defender Shane Duffy has not kicked a ball in anger since Celtic’s 2-1 win at St Johnstone on February 14, while midfielders James McClean and Robbie Brady were used only as substitutes in both games after spells on the sidelines at their clubs. Kenny has indicated there will be changes and all three will hope to get the nod.
Once bitten, twice shy
Luxembourg have improved significantly in recent years and their performance in Dublin should not have come as a shock. Qatar, however, will be a very different proposition. The Asian Cup holders have sought a variety of opposition as they attempt to prepare themselves for their finals, drawing with Paraguay and losing narrowly to Colombia and Argentina at the Copa America and beating Ireland’s Group A rivals Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the last week.