Well, that was satisfying, wasn’t it? Look, we’re not going to sit here and list improvements as a two-fingered salute to Martin and co, but even a moment’s respite when watching your national side after the last few years is welcome.
Style isn’t important because McCarthy is only here for 18 months, and this is Stephen Kenny’s inheritance, but to a man, we can rate their performances out of ten because that’s the fun thing to do.
Darren Randolph: 8
Never called on to make any blockbuster stops, but he’s just so dependable. Replacing Shay Given is nigh on impossible, but he’s going to be remembered even more fondly in retrospect. One of Ireland’s most consistent performers and this is another chapter in his international career worth plaudits.
Seamus Coleman: 6
Meh. He seems to have lost a bit of pace, and while previous lack of depth at the position would cause others to overstate Coleman’s importance, he really isn’t that valuable anymore given Doherty can step in. I did like him urging teammates forward when he was due to take a throw in the final minute, though.
Shane Duffy: 8
An incredible human being. A bionic head. A man mountain. His goal aside, which should be well up in the voting for the Ballon d’Or, his anticipation for danger and the enjoyment he gets from frustrating opposition forwards is breathtakingly fun to watch. There honestly might not be a better header of the ball in world football. And, he came so close to scoring a spinny turny worldy of a goal.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) June 7, 2019
Richard Keogh: 7
The protection he was afforded was often null and void, so to manage two runners in sticky situations was impressive. He was beaten to the header for Denmark’s goal but the timing of Hoejbjerg’s run was to perfection. Himself and Shane Duffy are comfortably Ireland’s more imposing unit.
Enda Stevens: 6
Stevens is probably the least technically gifted footballer in this side, but he always does the simple things, as well as offering width in attack when required. Given our history with left backs, I’m more than happy with his contributions. He was tidy in situations and did nothing wrong.
Glenn Whelan: 6
He needs Jeff Hendrick to operate. His positional awareness is still there, even if his legs don’t let him cover every blade he once could. But he’s still Ireland’s best option at six, and for away games like this, his distribution suffices. He just needs a club now. Anyone??
Conor Hourihane: 7
In general play, he needs to do more of what he’s really good and that’s shooting from absolutely anywhere. You’d struggle to remember a better striker of a ball in an Ireland’s squad in recent years and his set-piece deliveries bring us to a new level in those positions.
Jeff Hendrick: 7
The engine room. He’s so key to everything we do going forward. He’s the willing ball carrier, the selfless decoy runner and a good finisher when he needs to be. This just wasn’t the game to exhibit everything he’s good at, so he dug in instead. A key element.
Robbie Brady: 6
Didn’t look comfortable on the right. He must be moved to the left. Speaking of the left, that brings us onto…
James McClean: 4
He cannot play for Ireland for much longer. He now offers nothing as a footballer. When was the last time he came inside? Oh, he can’t, because he has no right boot. He gets to the byline and crosses low to the first opposition defender to clear. Getting more and more frustrating to watch.
David McGoldrick: 6
What an unorthodox footballer, he is. Not really effective, but involved enough not to be considered ineffective. Shane Long will come in here, but you can imagine he’s a fine substitute to throw into a game that is slowing down. He linked up occasionally, but he’s offside more than he’s offering a threat.
Big Mick: 8
His substitutes made sense. They actually made sense. Ireland have better shape about them now. Ireland also don’t seem afraid to play football when it’s on for them. This isn’t a complete overhaul because it doesn’t need to be. That’s Stephen Kenny’s job. For now, this will do just fine, Big Mick. Just fine indeed.