But for Neil Taylor, it could all have been so different for Ireland

Had Seamus Coleman been fit, Ireland might have gone through to the World Cup as group winners rather than exiting at the playoffs...

It’s almost exactly a year to the day since Seamus Coleman had his leg broken in Dublin by a horrific, pathetic challenge from Welshman Neil Taylor. Not only did the Republic of Ireland lose a captain, they also lost any realistic chance they had at qualifying for this summer’s FIFA World Cup.

So, take us back to this day – March 23rd – last year. Martin O’Neill’s men are in firm control of their qualification group, and with games to come at the Aviva Stadium to chief threats Serbia and Wales, they would have been hard to bet against, given their home record under the Derry native.

Ireland probably would have taken a point against Wales, but after Coleman’s injury sucked the life out of the place, it appeared as though the Boys in Green would never score again, let alone on the night. As expected, the game ended scoreless and the chance to all but guarantee top spot went by the wayside.

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Three months later, Ireland would welcome Austria to the Aviva. It’s important to note at this point that Seamus Coleman is far more than a fantastic footballer – he’s a leader and a vocal player on any pitch. When the Austrians worked their set-piece routine that allowed Martin Hinteregger to score, there was a deafening silence. The Donegal native wouldn’t have stopped communicating and would highlighted the danger, as he’d done so often beforehand.

However, the biggest crime of them all took place in Tbilisi as Ireland failed to hold onto a 1-0 lead.

Now, not only did they fail to hold onto it, they actively tried to protect it from the minute they scored it – which, by the way – was the fourth minute. The amount of respect they showed to a side who’d struggle to beat Kidderminster’s U14s was baffling, but the lack of experience and guile caused them the heartache. Remember, you defend from the front, but how deep you are is dictated by the back four. Coleman would have been on the halfway line.

The senior pros that replaced him in that sense were Glen Whelan, who hasn’t moved since 2004 and David Meyler who admittedly is a good footballer, but he’s currently trying to forge a sub-career in playing FIFA on YouTube. You can kind of see the soft centre appearing, can’t you?
Then, the big one – Serbia at home.

If Ireland don’t lose here, they probably top the group.

Instead, Cyrus Christie bought the decoy run to the inside, which allowed the square ball to be picked out by Aleksandar Kolarov. He proceeded to smash home from 16 yards. Here’s the thing – Coleman is more street-wise and he’d know he’d have to accommodate for Jon Walters’ lack of pace.

I’m not saying Ireland wouldn’t have lost to Denmark in the playoff, I’m saying Ireland wouldn’t have been there in the first place. This island may have a dull summer cheering on Panama, but it’s very good to have Seamus Coleman back playing for his club and country again. Our success depends on him. Long live the King.

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