Slightly more for Northern Ireland to cheer after derby, but Whelan gets deserved farewell


The Republic of Ireland faced Northern Ireland in the Aviva stadium for the first time in seven years, a night that was expected to be a great advertisement for Irish football resulted in a goal less 0-0 draw for both Irish sides, the match was the fifth draw in 11 meetings between the sides.

The result means Northern Ireland have won just twice in 12 matches, having lost all three of their opening Nation League Group B3 matches. The Republic of Ireland have not fared much better than the north, with a 2-1 friendly victory over the USA in June now their only victory in their last 10 outings.

They are bottom of their Group B4 Nations League table, having drawn one and lost two of their three matches and will complete their campaign with a trip to Denmark on Monday.

Darren Randolph was named man of the match on Thursday night as he rescued a draw for Martin O’Neils’s Republic side as their northern neighbours were left ruing their missed chances.

The Middlesbrough goalkeeper brilliantly blocked a shot early on from former Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte. The ex-West Ham man then came to the Republic of Ireland’s rescue again as he produced a wonderful save in the 72nd minute to deny Kilmarnock’s Jordan Jones.

Northern Ireland have been creating plenty of chances in recent matches without taking them and that was the case again in Thursday’s friendly.

Michael O’Neil left frustrated by Northern Ireland’s inability to take their opportunities in recent games, said:

“In terms of possession and chances created, we should have won. You must commend Randolph who had a great night. He made important saves at key moments in the game.”

The home side’s best chance of the night fell to Brighton defender Shane Duffy in the 21st minute from a dangerous free-kick by Robbie Brady, who was making his first international appearance for a year after a serious knee injury.

The current Brighton defender rose well to get his head to the cross, but he planted his effort straight into the ground, with the ball looping towards goal forcing visiting goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell into a fantastic save tipping the ball over the crossbar. Ronan Curtis who has been finding the net for Portsmouth this season came on for his international debut at half-time. The former Derry City man looked lively but could not carve out a goal scoring opportunity.

The Republic of Ireland fans will surely have been given a boost despite the goal less draw knowing that highly rated Southampton teenager Michael Obafemi has ended speculation over his international future by declaring for the Republic of Ireland. Fans will be optimistic over the prospect of West Ham starlet Declan Rice committing his future to the side also as speculation still looks over his international future.

Northern Ireland fans have reason to be boisterous, with fan favourite Kyle Lafferty being recalled into the Northern Ireland squad, making a cameo in the 70th minute after replacing striker Liam Boyce. after pulling out previously due to an injury he picked up while playing for Glasgow Rangers.

Lafferty’s inclusion will be a huge boost for Michael O’Neil’s side as the face Austria at Windsor park on Sunday.

The match also gave the home support the chance to give current Aston Villa midfielder Glenn Whelan a send-off on his 85th senior cap for the Republic of Ireland. Glenn Whelan has been a crucial cog in the engine room for Martin O’Neil’s side throughout his tenure.

The Aston Villa man is known for his knack of breaking down opposition attacks, often finding himself in the right place to nick the ball out from the feet of an attacker or make an important tackle that disrupted the rhythm of their play.

The 34-year-old, who has not officially retired from international football and has said he will still make himself available for selection if required, delivered a neat and tidy performance in his customary holding midfield role before making way for Conor Hourihane and handing the armband to regular skipper Seamus Coleman.


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