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James Makes Sure Ireland is on the Up and Up!


James Makes Sure Ireland is on the Up and Up!

Wales 0-1 Republic of Ireland

A second-half strike from the excellent James McClean fired Martin O’Neill’s Ireland into the World Cup play-offs and broke Welsh hearts. In this winner-takes-all clash, Wales started as the betting websites’ slight favourites. But football games of this importance are always tough to call, and it was the Irish who won through with a display of guts and efficiency. There were no jangling nerves for Ireland’s fans and their football betting backers as the underdogs saw the match out with a second-half defensive masterclass.

Wales dominated possession in a first half which offered little goalmouth action, but it was Ireland that looked the more dangerous side. McClean posed the first serious threat, firing a ball across the face of the Welsh goal on 18 minutes.

It was always going to be a feisty affair, and the Cardiff City Stadium held its breath when Joe Allen clattered into David Meyler and escaped with a yellow card. Ireland’s fighter McClean then took some revenge on Allen, on the half hour, which saw the influential midfielder make his exit.

O’Neill’s men continued to threaten at set-pieces, and Jeff Hendrick almost got on the end of a long throw before Shane Duffy shot narrowly wide after a period of Irish pressure. Then, 12 minutes after the break, came the big moment when Hendrick charged down the right wing and whipped in a superb cross for McClean to sweep brilliantly home.

It was the first time Wales had gone behind in this campaign and Chris Coleman’s men didn’t know how to cope. Ireland defended stoutly, and the hosts’ best chance to salvage something came when Aaron Ramsey had a free-kick chance as the minutes ebbed away…but he smashed it high and wide.

Ireland are still on course for Russia as Wales can only dream of what might have been.

 

 

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Stuart Wilkin
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