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Five High Points From Ireland’s Ultimately Disappointing 2018 World Cup Qualification Campaign

Cardiff , United Kingdom - 9 October 2017; James McClean of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group D match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

As Ireland lick their wounds following a 5-1 thumping at home by Denmark, we look back at a World Cup qualification campaign of highs and lows.

The post-mortems have been thorough, but it would be remiss to suggest that the last 14 months have been a complete disaster. Ireland were drawn as fourth seeds, finished second in the group, and headed into the home leg with their destiny very much in their own hands.

Murphy saves the day in Belgrade

Where it all began. The Serbs were arguably there for the taking, but all things considered, a draw was an acceptable result to get the ball rolling.

The Irish saw an early lead turn into a deficit, but Daryl Murphy came up with his first international goal to set the wheels in motion.

McClean gets the job done in Moldova

Given the lack of a goal-scoring striker, if Ireland were going to have any chance of making it through the group, a midfielder needed to chip in with the scoring.

James McClean certainly put his hand up through this campaign as a marksman, finding the net on four occasions. Two of these came when the Boys in Green found themselves locked at 1-1 away to Moldova. The Derryman popped up in the second half to bag a badly-needed brace.

A long-overdue away triumph

Away wins against teams of consequence weren’t exactly all too frequent before this campaign. In fact, it was the best part of 30 years since Ireland had scored a similar result.

Given that there were four teams of a similar standard competing for two spots at the top of Group D, it was always likely that Martin O’Neill’s side would have to pick up a big win on the road.

It finally came by virtue of a James McClean strike shortly after half-time on a bitterly cold night at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna.

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, Austria 12/11/2016 Austria vs Republic of Ireland Ireland's James McClean celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Jon Walters downs Austrian ambitions

The Austrians came to town, desperate to keep their hopes of qualification alive, and in truth, nothing less than a win was good enough. They took the lead, and looked for large parts of the game that they would go on to claim all three points.

Jonathan Walters had other ideas. While the home side ultimately felt they were cheated out of a win, it was a priceless point, especially considering that Wales and Serbia were facing off that evening with a possible unfavourable result from an Irish point of view on the way.

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 11/6/2017 Ireland vs Austria Ireland's Jonathan Walters celebrates scorin

 

A dream night in Cardiff

It will go down as one of the greatest ever moments in Irish qualifying history. It was do-or-die for the Irish team, away to a team who were off the back of a semi-final appearance at a major tournament.

James McClean rattled the net after some neat build-up play from Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter. What a moment. What a night.

 

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.