It has been a nervy few days for Martin O’Neill given the increasing injury list in the buildup to Friday’s game with Wales.
Although some key players will be absent, O’Neill will still be able to field a team more than capable of getting a result against Chris Coleman’s charges. Some reshuffling will be required and it could be an opportunity for some new faces to step up to the plate.
Conor Hourihane, John Egan and Daryl Horgan’s names have been mentioned as potential starters but with a huge concern that it could be too big a game for debuts. This could be the case but O’Neill will take heart from the fact that in the past, even more injury stricken Irish sides have pulled off shock results when key players were missing.
Some of these results have seen inexperienced heads put in the performances of their lives for the Irish cause. These three games are recent examples of when Irish resources have been stretched but the unlikely players came up with all the answers.
Ireland v Czech Republic 2006
The Czech Republic came to Dublin with Ireland fresh from four consecutive losses under Steve Staunton. To make matters worse, a number of injuries forced Staunton to delve into the outer fringes of his squad. A heavy loss was anticipated but Ireland left feeling that they should have won the game. Stephen Kelly, Wayne Henderson, Jonathan Douglas and most notably Paul McShane were thrust into action with McShane the man of the match on his Ireland debut. Kevin Kilbane gave Ireland the lead only for Jan Koller to equalise almost immediately after.
Stephen Kelly, Wayne Henderson, Jonathan Douglas and most notably Paul McShane were thrust into action with McShane the man of the match on his Ireland debut. Kevin Kilbane gave Ireland the lead only for Jan Koller to equalise almost immediately after.
Kevin Kilbane gave Ireland the lead only for Jan Koller to equalise almost immediately after. Considering Ireland’s poor form and the inexperience of some of the players on show, it was a huge result for Staunton’s men.
Ireland v Germany 2007
Another rare game of positivity from the Staunton era. Ireland were again hit with injuries to a number of key players including Stephen Carr, Damien Duff and John O’Shea. Ireland had regained form in their Euro 2008 group following wins against Wales and Slovakia but the injuries sustained made the task against Germany that bit more daunting.
Stephen Kelly filled in admirably for Carr while Andy Keogh replaced Duff operating in a workmanlike role. Andy Reid ran the show in midfield as Ireland drew but it was the heroic performance of Joey O’Brien that caught the eye. Only 21 at the time, O’Brien slotted into the unfamiliar position of centre-half and dealt with nearly everything the Germans threw at him.
Ireland v Germany 2015
Ireland were certainly not completely depleted for this tie but were missing some key players. The buildup was similar to that of this Friday’s tie with a number of players already ruled out. Seamus Coleman who missed the away leg was replaced by novice Cyrus Christie who stepped up to the plate and was one of the standout players in the game. Glenn Whelan too was missing meaning that James McCarthy moved into a deeper position where he too thrived.
44 minutes in, Shay Given was also hauled off with an injury in what ended up being his final competitive appearance for Ireland. He was replaced by Darren Randolph who released Shane Long for the goal and has been number one ever since.
It was a historic win for Ireland considering the enforced changes for the visit of the world champions.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena