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More clouds than silver linings for the Republic

Wales 1 Republic of Ireland 0

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On course: David Brooks celebrates his goal

On course: David Brooks celebrates his goal

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Jeff Hendrick commits the foul on Tyler Roberts which earned his red card

Jeff Hendrick commits the foul on Tyler Roberts which earned his red card

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James McClean

James McClean

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

On course: David Brooks celebrates his goal

The silver lining, if there is one, from the Republic of Ireland's seemingly endless run of misery is that the Irish fans, and the wider football world, will not have to see Wales play the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League for some time.

The Welsh are on their way to promotion in the competition and the Republic are facing relegation.

International football is a serious business, as is the Republic's plight of a third successive defeat and the sixth game in a row without a goal scored, and it's not something to be joked about.

The pride of the players, and people around them such as Stephen Kenny, Keith Andrews and Damien Duff, will be hurting.

But sometimes gallows humour is the only relief on nights like this one in Cardiff, Wales 1-0 winners courtesy of a scrappy goal from David Brooks, as the international side is facing what is its sternest test of character since the start of Mick McCarthy's first spell as manager.

The Republic have lost, again, without scoring and have now set a new record in the national team's history for a goal-free spell, 570 minutes without finding the net.

Defeat at home to Bulgaria in Dub­lin on Wednesday would defi­nitely doom Stephen Kenny's side to demotion in the Nations League.

An Irish side which has produced more red cards than goals in the grimmest of all the grim international years now needs to beat Bulgaria to salvage anything from a truly awful 2020.

Kenny's job is not quite on the line as his employers will trust him to be around for the World Cup qualifiers in March.

But the lack of finesse up front, the inability to take chances when they come, the inability to convert positivity into points and the utter naivety of the Irish defend­ing for Wales goal are all deeply trou­bling.

Green shoots are there but they are being trampled on time after time in the harsh world of international football. Patience is there, but it's not infinite.

As Kenny insists that he needs time and that his side is on the right path, the supporters of a recent predecessor, Martin O'Neill, put their noses in the air and ask Irish football, where's your Messiah now while Mick McCarty loyalists will, loudly, ponder the wisdom of his ousting in April.

Kenny is building a new house for the international team to play in and he is, repeatedly, encouraged by what he sees.

Yet it was not a moment of genius from a Gareth Bale set piece which won it for Wales, instead a simple cross, header at the back post from Bale and a scrappy but important finish from Brooks. It was a slack pass from Jack Byrne, intended for Matt Doherty, which teed up the chance that saw Jeff Hendrick sent off.

Circumstances did conspire against Kenny, depriving him of key players for the last two camps: Covid-19 and injury have been unwanted travelling companions for Kenny.

But every manager in international football in 2020 can have a hard-luck story, and lots of countries are flushing out youth, with greater effect.

Kenny is resolute in his faith in his team. But the verdict from those who go into combat with them is damn­ing. Last week, Gareth Southgate was asked how his defence had played against the Republic.

"We weren't tested defensively as much as we might have been," he said, deadpan, not intend­ing to cause insult but doing it all the same. Wales had a similar version after last night. For all the belief in the Republic camp that Kenny's side were just one moment away from a result, Wales had another take.

At half-time, the goal drought remained in place but Kenny and his staff will have been relatively encour­aged by what they had seen, a bright start from a Republic team which had not wilted in the face of a more experi­enced and higher-ranked Welsh outfit.

Robbie Brady was somewhere between a passenger and a bit part actor for the Mick McCarthy era of 2019 but he was at the heart of most of the good things in Car­diff, an early assist for Shane Duffy and then a shot of Brady's own on 17 min­utes.

Then, Wales needed their keeper on the half-hour mark, Danny Ward's foot keeping out a strike by James McClean after good work by Brady and he inspired his team again on 35 minutes, a rush from midfield and a clever ball up for Idah, whose approach was cut out by Joe Rodon.

But Wales finally opened the Republic up on 60 minutes, a cross from Daniel James headed towards Brooks by Bale with a calm finish from Brooks.

After that scrappy goal, it was scrappy to the finish, a sub-par Hendrick una­ble to see out the game after a professional foul on Tyler Roberts, as the Republic's attack had only half-hearted efforts from sub James Collins to offer.

WALES: Ward, Mepham, Rodon, Davies, N Williams, Ampadu, Morrell, Norrington-Davies (Moore, 62 mins), Bale, Brooks (T Roberts, 88 mins), James. Unused subs: C Roberts, King, Johnson, Sheehan, Matondo, Lockyer, Lawrence, Smith, F Williams, Gunter.

REP OF IRELAND: Randolph, Doherty, Duffy, Long, O'Shea (O'Dowda, 82 mins), Molumby (Hourihane, 76 mins), Brady (Byrne, 82 mins), Hendrick, Horgan (Knight, 59 mins), Idah (Collins, 75 mins), McClean. Unused subs: Christie, Curtis, Clark, Manning, Kelleher, Maguire, Travers.

Referee: Petr Ardeleanu (Czech Rep)

Man of the match: David Brooks

Match rating: 6/10

Belfast Telegraph


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