Sport

Old Habits Die Hard as Ireland Come Up Short Against Turkey

Watching Ireland try to fathom up attack after attack was not the most exciting Friday night one could imagine, and while everyone was aware of the relative pointlessness of a successful result, we didn’t emerge with any sort of a moral victory either.

Yet another hapless attempt at showing attacking intent was not even that much of a concern because of the defence’s competence against quite a disappointing Turkish effort. It was a frustrating game, as many Ireland games can be for supporters, but for all the talk of showcasing new young talent, the way we played on Friday night rendered it near impossible to judge them properly.

It’s likely Martin O’ Neill didn’t learn a huge amount about rejuvenating the team, but it would be a shame if these new players were only given one mediocre opportunity to break into the team.

It was, of course, a 1-0 loss, and despite getting dominated over the course of the 90 minutes, the goal that won the game for Turkey was from a corner. This will signal another huge point of disappointment for O’Neill’s men, as their defending otherwise was actually the strongest area of the performance.

To lose to a goal from a corner given the stats is a demoralising way to do it. 12 shots in total for Turkey, five for Ireland, six shots on target for Turkey, zero for Ireland, yet Turkey might not have felt very aggrieved had Ireland come out of Antalya with a draw. For the most part Colin Doyle and his defenders were equal to what Turkey threw at them, so it seems like one that got away in that sense.

Staying with those statistics, it does sum up Ireland’s problems at this level that we managed no shots on target in the 90 minutes. If asked about Ireland’s main recurring problem in international games most supporters would mention attacking innovation and Friday was no different.

Just once in the entirety of the game did an Irish attack have the viewers on the edge of their seats, during the first half when Jeff Hendrick played quite an incredible pass in between the two Turkish centre backs for Scott Hogan to chase. Hogan took it around the keeper but his touch had taken him quite wide and he hit the side netting. Encouraging, if not for the fact it was such an isolated piece of good play. Hogan and Maguire tried hard, but with the supply of ball into them, in behind them and generally all around them left them with so little to work with.

The newcomers or general unfamiliar faces didn’t let the side down by any means, Declan Rice was singled out in particular for praise, even if he was quite often confused for singer Damien. Goalkeeper Doyle can’t really be blamed for the goal conceded and for a man making his first Irish start since his debut a decade ago, he assimilated right in. Alan Browne was industrious but Ireland looked much better when David Meyler came on in his place.

As for an extremely familiar face, the sight of Seamus Coleman marauding up and down the right wing in the green of Ireland was a massively encouraging sight and a long overdue one at that. The captain’s influence, especially as the team was quite inexperienced, was an enormous help to the side.

It was difficult to imagine Ireland creating anything of significance throughout, but if it was to come from anywhere it was via set pieces, crosses or counter attacks. For that reason, it was particularly disheartening to see some of the deliveries into the front men, just that aforementioned Hendrick pass and perhaps a McClean cross in the second half were any way inviting for Hogan, Maguire or Shane Long when he came on.

It’s easy to be negative about an Irish performance like the one on Friday night, but the only thing to do is learn from it and improve where possible. Next up is the French in Paris during the month of May. One would assume we won’t get away with conceding from corners or having no shots on target in that affair.

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