A fine display in Stockholm alright, though some question remain.
Trap finally changed things up when it really mattered. There was less of the long/hoof ball dross, more pressing, more involvement of the central midfield, more possession. It seemed like a completely different side, in mentality and drive, to the one that played Germany.
Forde’s kicking needs a bit of work, but aside from that it was a good performance, some great saves, some great ball handling. In defence, O’Shea had his best game in ages, doing more to shut Zlatan down than anyone. The rest all did sterling work too, especially Wilson moving up the field when required and Clark in league with O’Shea. A definite sturdiness was evident that has been missing since well before Euro 2012.
Midfield, McCarthy showed just what he can bring to the side, and I really hope he doesn’t get left behind Whelan anymore. The German game was a nightmare for him, but when the central midfield is actually brought into the gameplan, as opposed to watching long balls played over them, he can have an impact. Green had a good game, not spectacular but solid, enough to justify his inclusion. His oft-stated role before hand was to stifle Ibrahimovic, but the Swedish talisman seemed to be playing away from Green most of the time anyway. Between the two CM’s they bossed the centre for long stretches, really made a difference to the impact Ireland can make. When the ball was kept low and worked through them, Ireland were able to create stuff. Walters, out of position, ran well and did his bit. McClean was the best I’ve seen him in ages, actually taking on defenders, but I wish his dead ball delivery was better.
Upfront, it was somewhat disappointing Keane, aside from that early cross, didn’t seem to add much, and was late to several crosses that could have been attacked. Long ran, made space for himself and got in a few decent crosses, but his early miss was a howler and it just seemed like he was hesitant to pull the trigger. Would have swapped Keane out earlier, but I understand that Trap was hesitant about going for it.
I think the win was there to be taken if Ireland had just risked a little bit more going forward. Sweden seemed so impotent (Zlatan looked exhausted from the start) that I just thought they could have pressed on a bit. A clear lack of pace on the counter-attack, as more than once I saw Walters calling for players to play the ball to when he was moving forward.
I really hope we can move on and beat Austria now, and really get the quest for second on a solid footing. Trap’s changed his team and his tactics, now he has to stick with it. The news coming out is that Glenn Whelan is likely to reclaim his place in the team, ahead of Green, which I hope does not signal a return to hoofball. Keane is out, with Sammon apparently taking his place, an continuing exclusion of both Kevin Doyle and Hoolahan which provokes further concern about the kind of attitude Trap is displaying. As one seeding higher and playing at home, a win against Austria is required. If Trap achieves that, he’ll have done more than enough to secure his position for the remainder of the campaign, even if I still think someone else could be doing an equal or better job than the Italian.
In the League of Ireland, disappointment for Limerick, falling to their first defeat of the season away to the champions. Limerick battled hard and were well worth their early lead by all accounts, but Sligo Rovers are the best in Ireland for a reason. Elding looks set to dominate the league this year, and Limerick missed David O’Leary badly. The blow is softened by the straightforward win Limerick had against UCD during the week, putting in three goals before the half hour and coasting for the rest. Barry Ryan’s red card is evidence of a certain lack of discipline, something that will have to be worked on. Limerick face St Pats in Thomond Park on Saturday, another tough contest. But Pats haven’t exactly been setting the league on fire, so Limerick will be hopeful of getting something.
The Shamrock Rovers resurgence has hit some major stumbling blocks. Unbeaten, but held to two consecutive scoreless draws by both Bohs and Shels yesterday. One wonders if this new and improved team of superstars in Tallaght is just a false dawn, as they already alg well behind Sligo. Shels will be happy to finally be off the mark, but I still hold little hope of them staying up this season.
Drogheda don’t seem to the team they were last season either, dropping a lot of points, most recently to Derry at home, and falling off a pace they were expected to help set. A difficult ask away to Dundalk in midweek, and Mick Cooke will want to change things around ahead of European games.
Speaking of Derry, they grabbed their first win in Turners Cross in a long time at the weekend. The FAI Cup winners aren’t looking too bad it has to be said, second in the table at time of writing, while Cork are again slow off the starting position. UCD, having lost all four games this season, will struggle to effect their usual escape this time round.
Down below in the First Division, up is down and black is white. Finn Harps and Mervue United lead the way, following impressive wins over last season contenders, Longford and Waterford, respectively. Mervue got what may be their best result in years, dominating the Blues on their own term. Waterford, minus Maguire, look a shade of the team that romped to four straight wins over Limerick last season. That Mervue could be potential promotion contenders seems crazy considering their record in the LOI, but stranger things have happened.