It was yet another eventful and successful weekend for Irish sport with victory for Conor McGregor over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 while the Irish rugby team followed up that historic win against the All Blacks by dispatching of Canada.
However, Irish sport’s performance of the week has to go to the international football team, who delivered yet another golden moment to round off a memorable 2016 sitting pretty on top of the World Cup qualifying group looking down on the rest.
Some say international football is dead and lament the fact that it forces people to wait two weeks until the Premier League returns. However, you try telling that to the Irish football team and their die-hard supporters who made the trip to Vienna and sang proudly as they saw the Boys in Green secure a crucial three points.
Ireland right-back Seamus Coleman’s passionate post-match interview summed things up perfectly (via RTÉ):
“It’s brilliant, a massive three points. We rode our luck a few times but the likes of Jonny Walters up top, James McClean, his back is hanging off and he put in a performance like that, David Meyler’s been waiting for a chance and he was different class.
“There’s a long way to go but we’re really happy and really proud of our fans. We know it’s three points but it’s massive, and them fans who’ve come out here for us – three and a half thousand and that’s what it means to us as well.”
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 12, 2016
There is not a group of players in international football who fight more for their country than Martin O’Neill’s men and, as a nation, we should be proud. Nobody illustrates that more than James McClean who followed up his brace in Moldova with the all important winning goal.
Kevin Wimmer’s pathetic dive at the other end of the pitch was punished with a devastating counter attack as David Meyler won the ball and fed it to Wes Hoolahan who played a sumptuous pass into McClean’s path who finished between the goalkeeper’s legs with aplomb.
Current Dundalk man Daryl Horgan may not have gotten his chance but the League of Ireland was well represented in its former players, who played a huge part in the goal. The former Cork City man won the ball, an ex-Shelbourne star got the assist and the former Derry City winger slotted it into the net.
Admittedly Austria were extremely poor and gave away a countless number of balls; even Bayern Munich stalwart David Alaba was guilty of that. Austria had a terrible Euros and they already face an uphill struggle to rescue their World Cup hopes now. Confidence is clearly low and the manager is under huge pressure.
It cannot be forgotten that Austria still have some quality players in their lineup and they have been very much a bogey team for Ireland down through the years. Ireland rarely, if ever, go away to major qualification rivals and win. The significance of the win cannot be denied with Ireland showing some real steel defending their lead to compliment their typical courage and high energy.
Darren Randolph was superb between the sticks once again while Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark look like they could form a promising defensive partnership.
O’ Neill’s troops will remain top of the table after Wales’ 1-1 draw with Serbia as international football goes into a four-month hibernation period until March.
— FAIreland (@FAIreland) November 13, 2016
Four points away to Serbia and Austria is a fantastic tally for Ireland. The momentum is with the Boys in Green now with four of their remaining six fixtures at the Aviva Stadium. If they can make home advantage count, Ireland could well be on their way to automatic qualification never mind the usual aim of a play-off spot.
Remaining Republic of Ireland fixtures in Group D:
- 24th March, 2017: Republic of Ireland vs Wales
- 11th June, 2017: Republic of Ireland vs Austria
- 2nd September, 2017: Georgia vs Republic of Ireland
- 5th September, 2017: Republic of Ireland vs Serbia
- 6th October, 2017: Republic of Ireland vs Moldova
- 9th October, 2017: Wales vs Republic of Ireland