Despite a massive dark cloud over the Irish camp following Seamus Coleman’s horrific leg break last Friday, tonight’s friendly encounter allowed some Irish fringe players a chance to shine.
Along with this golden opportunity for some, tonight’s game also gave the domestic league some massive exposure it desperately needs, with Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle proving just what can happen by playing and succeeding domestically. Both, as we know, having made a somewhat meteoric rise from Dundalk to Preston North End to now donning the iconic green shirt in a matter of months.
Meanwhile, Iceland, who came into this evenings game on the back of a somewhat comfortable 2-1 victory in their World Cup Qualifier away against International newbies Kosovo, and still riding the wave of confidence that came from their massive Euro 2016 defeat of England.
The game itself started as a pretty cagey affair with both teams feeling each other out and Ireland having the lions share of possession but the visitors looked dangerous from set pieces, looking to utilize that long throw option that caused havoc in the Euros.
There was no real chances of note at either end, but that changed in the 21st minute when the bandaged John Egan was deemed to have pulled down Kjartan Henry Finnbogason just 23 yards out from goal and very harshly receiving a yellow card for his troubles. Up stepped Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson, who curled a delightful left footed free kick over the wall into the corner, leaving Kieren Westwood with no chance.
Since the goal, Irelands struggled to muster any sort of pressure and, in truth, it was Iceland who looked much more comfortable on the ball having the next two shots on goal. Brady threatened to deliver a couple of dangerous crosses but unfortunately came to nothing just before referee Jakob Kehlet brought a disappointing first half to a close.
Ireland started the second half with a number of corners in quick succession as they looked to build some momentum but, despite some good deliveries from Brady, Iceland dealt with the aerial threat quite comfortably as the frustration grew.
The biggest cheer of the night came when Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle finally made, what felt like their long awaited International debuts, replacing fellow debutants Johnny Hayes and John Egan respectively.
Amzingly, in just the small space of five months between playing their last game for Dundalk and making their International debuts, both can feel incredibly proud of their achievements.
Horgan took no time to settle into the thick of things looking a serious threat with his pace down the left flank, drawing fouls and delivering an excellent cross from the left that had Kristinsson in the Iceland goal totally flustered. The wingers direct style looked far more dangerous than his counterpart Hayes and, although it was a brief cameo, has handed Martin O’Neill a bit of a selection dilemma going forward.
The introduction of both, along with Shane Long lifted the crowd and fellow substitute Callum O’ Dowda went close after a mazy dribble down the right wing cutting inside but saw his left footed effort blocked as the home side sensed an equalizer in the air.
Unfortunately for the boys in green that all illusive equalizer never arrived as Iceland, very cleverly, used their remaining substitutions at each break in play to stop any momentum the home side could conjure up.
Despite the result, it was a fantastic achievement for both the League of Ireland and the Preston duo to realize their dream of representing their country.
Rep. of Ireland: 1. Kieran Westwood, 2. Cyrus Christie, 4. Alex Pearce, 14. John Egan (Andy Boyle 61’), 10. Robbie Brady (c), 7 Aidan McGeady (19. Callum O’Dowda 71’), 13. Jeff Hendrick (Stephen Gleeson 61’), 3. Conor Hourihane (21. Eunan O’Kane 61’), 20. Johnny Hayes (Daryl Horgan 61’), 11. James McClean (Shane Long 71’), 8. Kevin Doyle
Subs: 16. Colin Doyle, 23. Darren Randolph, 5. Richard Keogh, 6. Stephen Gleeson, 9. Shane Long, 12. Andy Boyle, 15. Daryl Horgan, 17. Stephen Ward, 18. David Meyler, 19. Callum O’Dowda, 21. Eunan O’Kane
Manager: Martin O’Neill
Iceland: 1. Ogmundur Kristinsson, 2. Birkier Mar Saevarsson (3. Vidar Ari Jonsson 84’), 5. Sverrir Ingi Ingason, 6. Ragner Sigurdsson (4. Holmar Eyjolfsson ‘52) 8. Aron Sigurdarson (7. Elias Mar Omarsson 64’), 15. Jon Dadi Dodvarsson, 16. Olafur Ingi Skulason (20. Arnor Smarason 78’), 17. Aron Einar Gunnarsson, 18. Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson, 19. Rurik Gislason (23. Ari Freyr Skulason 87’), 24. Kjartan Henry Finngogason (11. Ottar Magnus Karlsson 71’)
Subs: 1. Hannes Halldorsso, 13. Ingvar Jonsson, 3. Vidar Ari Jonsson, 4. Holmar Eyjolfsson, 7. Elias Mar Omarsson, 9. Vidar Orn Kjartansson, 11. Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 14. Kari Arnason, 20. Arnor Smarason, 22. Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson, 23. Ari Freyr Skulason
Manager: Heimir Hallgrimsson
Referee: Jakob Kehlet