Wednesday 16 October 2019

Wonderful waltzes or bad dad dancing?

Weird Wide World of Sport

James McClean celebrates with captain Seamus Coleman after scoring Ireland’s second goal
James McClean celebrates with captain Seamus Coleman after scoring Ireland’s second goal

Dave Devereux

I tuned into Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Moldova with that slight sense of trepidation that comes with watching the Boys in Green these days.

Would Martin O'Neill deploy boring tactics that would send me into an early Sunday evening slumber or could the weekend end on somewhat of a high?

For a second I thought I had turned on Strictly Come Dancing when George Hamilton kindly informed us that referee Jakob Kehlet's sister is a ballroom dancing champion, but we were soon treated to a pin-point pass from waltzing Wes and sure-footed Shane wasn't long about sliding the ball into the net.

To continue the dancing theme, Ireland had been more like a drunken dad at a wedding in the games against Serbia and Georgia, but as they blitzed out of the blocks on Sunday the John Travolta shimmies and shakes suddenly appeared as they started to strut their stuff, albeit against whipping boys Moldova.

There was an energy and vitality there that wasn't present in previous games and after all the long ball stuff we've had to endure, there was more than a hint of irony that a precision pass to Long produced the opening goal.

Do we really have to wait until we're facing the cannon-fodder before trying to play the ball on the ground though?

Not all the time of course. Obviously we're nowhere near good enough to outplay Spain or Germany, but surely professional footballers should be capable of retaining possession by stringing a few passes together, and playing route one football if needs be.

Everything was going swimmingly, although George and Jim were getting a little over-excited in the commentary box - with the level of salivating over Wes and the boys you'd swear we were watching the 1970 Brazil side.

Every time Moldovan defender Posmac (pronounced posh mac) was mentioned, I pictured something a hipster would wear to keep the rain off their back while emerging from their yurt at the Electric Picnic.

You'd have to hope an expensive raincoat would offer more protection against the elements than the shaky centre-half did for his goalkeeper though.

As well as looking creaky at the back, Jim Beglin assured us that Moldova offered little or nothing going forward, until Duffy's circus act took centre stage that is, when he was caught badly out of position to gift an opportunity to the hosts which they duly gobbled up.

The jitter bug seemed to be catching in the early minutes of the second-half with Ireland reverting to the nervous default position we had seen a few days earlier in Dublin against Georgia.

Thankfully they were soon back in the swing of things, when James McClean spared fellow Derry man Shane Duffy's blushes with a well-taken double.

Tempers flared in the final minute when Jon Walters got a kick in the ribs for his troubles and reacted badly to the foul, but he can be forgiven for his outburst given he showed all and sundry he was literally a marked man, and he also had the last laugh as it wasn't Dedov's night.

The creativity and guile of Wes Hoolahan certainly played a big part in a slightly improved performance by the Irish team, while the captain's role seems to bring the best out in Seamus Coleman, as he was arguably the best player over the two games.

Anybody glancing at the Group D table would think Ireland are ticking along nicely, but given the performances to date, to be sitting level with Serbia on seven points at the summit would have you scratching your head with bewilderment. But hey, we'll gladly take it and the opening day draw against Serbia is looking better and better as most sides will struggle to return with anything from there, and Wales not managing to beat Georgia in Cardiff was a Brucie Bonus of the highest order.

The tired cliché tells us that to be able to play badly and still win is the sign of a good team, so if that's the case we're world beaters.

It's probably prudent not to get too excited about beating minnows Moldova or about the manner of our play, and next month's match away to Austria will tell us more about where we stand.

The question is, will it be a virtuoso Viennese waltz or deplorable dad dancing?

Wexford People

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