Player Ratings: Ireland v Wales
A very good point, all things considered. And a game of effort and tactics, rather than class. Here's how we saw the individual performances:
Darren Randolph (6.5)
Not a whole lot to do for the Bray man – but saw his uprights shaved by Bale a few times. Commanded his box well, and considering he rarely has the benefit of a regular centre back pairing, he communicates and organises well. His uber laid back manner nearly saw him tackled when clearing a passback early in the second half, but a solid display all around.
Seamus Coleman (10)
Hard to make any comment here other than we wish him a swift and healthy return to football soon. We’ll see you in Russia, Seamus. Go n-éirí an bóthar le.
John O Shea & Richard Keogh (7)
Putting these together as they were pretty much inseparable the whole game. Duffy and Clark definitely more agile, and aggressive, but considering this was highlighted as a real worry prior to the game, it certainly didn’t play out that way. O’Neill’s tactics certainly helped, and were nearly Trap-esque in their approach (“don’t pass the halfway line”), but they nullified Robson-Kanu’s threat in the first half (he was pulled off at half time). Keogh was given the task of man-marking Bale off corners, and succeeded with merit on that front - he needs to get more assured on the ball, however. O’Shea’s legs may be gone, but his footballing brain isn’t. Hugely disciplined, professional performance by both.
Stephen Ward (7.5)
Similar to O’Shea and Keogh, an equally disciplined and confident performance, but he had the added task of a wandering Bale. Ward held his position excellently, particularly in the first half, and rarely gave Bale the opportunity to turn and face the goal. Only on one occasion did himself and McClean get defensively mixed up, leaving the Welsh to get in behind. Bale only really got one opportunity to turn and run at him once in the game, and as we saw from the inch-wide thunderbolt that followed, it really just highlighted how well Ward had done on the night.
Jonathan Walters (7.5)
Hard to keep finding more things to say about Walters, but considering this was his third game back after a lengthy spell out post-knee operation, the mans engine is un-humanlike. Again, playing two roles in an O’Neill team (target man up front, and hybrid-right back), Walters played a part in everything that was excellent about Ireland. Considering the Welsh play with 3 centre backs, it’s amazing (a) Walters success rate in winning headers, and (b) his success rate of actually finding a green shirt from those headers. Unfortunately, didn’t get many opportunities to add a goal to his evening.
David Meyler (6.5)
You have to imagine Meyler spent a long part of this week preparing to start this game, even though all things pointed to McCarthy being fit. But considering he was only pulled into the side a few minutes before kick-off, it’s a testament to his mindset. He was solid, and confident, and switched well front-and-back with Hendrick. He is quickly becoming a Martin O Neill favourite.
Glenn Whelan (7.5)
We would be one of the first to criticise the selection of Glenn Whelan in a certain type of game, but last night was one of the best performances he’s had in a green shirt for a long time. He was always available for a pass, his positioning was superb, and he basically orchestrated the tempo of our play. People will criticise him for being slow on the ball, passing backwards and sidewards, etc, but make no mistake - this was his mandate, and O’Neill and Keane will have been thrilled with him. An elbow on his club teammate Joe Allen could have seen him sent to the showers in the second half, but you’ll see little complaints from us on this one – his eyes were fixated on the ball, not the Welshman’s flowing locks – but we did agree with how he described Allen in the immediate aftermath…. “Ye prick”. Mark Kinsella would’ve been proud.
Jeff Hendrick (6)
Probably the disappointment of the night from a performance perspective. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of game Hendrick enjoys, he likes been given freedom to “play his game”, but if there was one player on the pitch who didn’t seem to understand what his role was in the formation, it was him. On this viewing, similar to Hoolahan, Hendrick may soon start to become another conundrum for O’Neill – when to start him, and how to play him. Tactically, it was never going to be easy for a ‘creative’ player, particularly with such a busy Welsh midfield, but what was more worrying of him was perhaps drive to be involved. He largely went unnoticed throughout. And certainly didn’t look like his step up to Premier League football has given him the confidence to step up to the next level. Also, yet to see him really perform for us without Brady in the side.
James McClean (8)
Oustanding performance, in what has been an appallingly tough week for James. He wore the number 5 jersey with pride, and stood out by far as the best player on the pitch. Amazing testament to the guy how he’s improved his game over the last few years. He’s turned his hot headed approach, into one of passion, but also intelligence. What a display. And what an example he sets.
Shane Long (6.5)
This was never going to be easy for Long. Had the makings of another Belgium where he just spent the day getting beat up and frustrated. But with their deep lying, back five, he was patient, and worked well with Walters to cause them some trouble (although, generally, much further away from the goal than we would have liked). Probably would have been more a game for Daryl Murphy, but the questions of Long’s ability to play up front on his own, continues. And had Walters not been back to the monster that he is (a la the Euro’s), this could have been much worse for Long. As we reach the ‘business end’ of the campaign, O’Neill needs to figure out how to get the best out of Long, or be willing not to use him.
Cyrus Christie (6)
Got himself involved. Will become an important figure in the rest of our campaign now. Will need to do some work on how we make him more of an attacking threat. Looked a bit unsure of what to do at times.
Aiden McGeady (7)
After the red card, this game was tee’d up for McGeady. He caused plenty of problems, but without any green shirts in the box, it generally meant he had to cut inside and look for the shot – the Welsh defence had prepared for this. On another day, with more attacking options to aim for, he would have been a bigger threat. Great to see him back in form, and confident.
O’Neill & Keane (8)
This wasn’t beautiful by any means, but it had tactics written all over it. The players were incredibly well prepared. Every inch of Welsh attacking threat was covered, and rarely were we caught off guard with anything. After a questionable start to their management, the team is now showing a real stamp of excellent management. Make no mistake about it – this was damage limitation. Martin and Roy will be delighted with a draw, and weren’t willing to take the risks associated with trying to get more. As the country wakes up with a groggy head this morning, I they too will feel the same.