It was a difficult build-up to the big match for the Irish camp with a string of injuries to key players such as Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy leaving a depleted looking squad, not to mention Robbie Brady’s suspension.
James McCarthy’s injury prior to kick off was another blow as David Meyler came into the starting XI. Everton manager Ronald Koeman will have something to say no doubt but let’s leave that for now.
However, Martin O’Neill’s side was coming into the game in a strong position on top of the group with 10 points from their opening four games.
It was a position that Chris Coleman’s Wales would have envied. Draws against Georgia, Serbia and Austria have proved costly for the surprise package from Euro 2016.
After Serbia’s 3-1 win in Georgia, it was a must-win game for Wales while the Republic of Ireland could afford a draw to keep a nice distance ahead of their opponents in the group.
Wales’ star man Gareth Bale was the one for an injury-ravaged Ireland side to fear. The Aviva Stadium was rocking and it was even dubbed ‘the game of the weekend’ between the Celtic Cousins. The stage was set for a classic.
It didn’t exactly go that way, and perhaps common sense would tell you it was always going to be a tense, physical battle rather than a masterpiece.
It was a cautious looking Irish line up and that proved to be the case as they sat deep allowing Wales to have possession in areas where they could not hurt the home side.
Wales were too slow and ponderous in possession to trouble a well organised Irish defence. Gareth Bale was well marshalled with three or four green shirts hounding him at every opportunity. James McClean was covering every blade of grass in the number 5 jersey.
It was concerning from an attacking point of view though as Ireland failed to offer any threat on the counter attack, relying on long balls up to Long and Walters.
The half time whistle came without any clear-cut chances for either side in a tense first half but one severely lacking in quality. Ireland were the happier side though going in at the break.
The second half followed the same pattern with Wales dominating possession without creating much apart from a couple of long shots from Bale the few times he managed to break away from green shirts.
Bale was lucky not to see red for a terrible challenge on John O’Shea in the Irish box but he received a yellow which puts him out of Wales’ trip to Serbia. Huge loss.
However, the main talking point of the game arrived a minute after the Bale tackle further up the pitch as Welsh left-back Neil Taylor produced a horrific tackle on Irish captain Seamus Coleman. Taylor rightly received a straight red at a tackle that made the stadium wince and where Sky Sports refused to show replays of it.
The immediate concern was about Coleman as medical staff ran onto the pitch with a stretcher. The Everton star looked in unimaginable agony. It was clear he had suffered a broken leg and was brought off the pitch to be replaced by Cyrus Christie.
Ireland pushed for a winner against their ten-man opponents but could not find it as it finished scoreless leaving Wales’ World Cup hopes hanging by a thread ahead of a visit to Serbia minus Gareth Bale. They really needed the three points from Dublin.
The result itself suits Ireland a lot more but much of the attention will be on the well-being of their best player. Coleman is set to be sidelined for a considerable amount of time.
It is a huge shame as the former Sligo Rovers player has been in outstanding form this season and looks to be at his peak. Let’s hope he can make a full recovery.
A frustrating night for both teams for largely different reasons.
Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena