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The wheels come off the O’Neill bus as Ireland exit through play offs

Christian Eriksen masterclass compounded a disastrous evening for the boys in Green with a hat-trick of the highest quality to book Denmark a place at next years World Cup.

Heartbreak, devastation, a slaughter and massacre are words that will no doubt do the rounds throughout the media as, in yet another glorious failure as Ireland failed to reach the promised land of Russia 2018.

Serious questions will be raised in relation to team selection, substitutions and tactics in particular but that’s for another day. Yes, Denmark, are arguably a far superior side technically but they proved they could be “got at” and this was evident just five minutes into the massive encounter.

Robbie Brady floated a delightful ball into the box from a deep free kick. The ball wasn’t dealt with by Simon Kjaer, more hooked into the air, and Shane Duffy rose like a salmon to nod the ball over Kasper Schmeichel who was caught in no mans land to make the Irish fans dream.

The visitors, as expected, dominated much of, if not all of the ball and Darren Randolph was forced into some more heroics yet again. First the ‘Boro stopper produced a world class save from Willim Kvist from the edge of the area. The midfielder’s low hard drive through a host of bodies was seen at the last second by Randolph to turn around. Seconds later Pione Sisto found himself with acres of space on the left hand side but his well-struck volley was, again, turned around the post by Saturday’s man of the match.

The boisterous home crowd thought they had doubled their lead just minutes later when it was Irelands turn to have two great chances in quick succession. Firstly, Cyrus Christie’s low cross was delicately turned on goal from Daryl Murphy, but unfortunately hit the side netting, much to the confusion of over half the stadium. This was followed with James McClean’s decent effort, but the winger dragged his low drive inches wide of the far post.​​

Just before the half hour mark Irish dreams and a Credit Union windfall were dashed as the Danes equalized. Danger man Sisto found himself one on one from a short corner and produced a delightful nutmeg to beat Artur. His low cross seemed to elude everyone but the long outstretched leg of Andreas Christensen who poked towards goal. The tame effort hit the post but rebounded off the unlucky Cyrus Christie on the post.

Almost immediately after conceding, it was 2-1 to the visitors. Stephen Ward got caught in possession on the halfway line and following a swift counter the ball was switched to the classy Christian Eriksen who beautifully curled his right footed effort in off the bar giving Randolph no chance and putting one Danish foot into the World Cup.

Two changes for the home side accompanied the start of the second half. Harry Arter and David Meylor were replaced by Aidan McGeady and Wes Hoolahan and the change in personnel gave the crowd an instant lift. Shane Duffy almost doubled his tally rising highest from a Brady corner, but the towering centre half couldn’t generate enough power on the downward header.

The new found life in the side didn’t last long and that man again Eriksen put the tie beyond doubt curling a dreamy left footed effort into the top corner to make it 3-1 and goodnight Vienn…Aviva. The world-class playmaker must have pinched himself at the amount of time he was afforded on the edge of the Irish box, but take nothing away from yet another top drawer finish.

The Spurs man then went onto smash home his third, completing an quite outstanding individual performance. Nicolai Jorgensen’s cross was not dealt with by Stephen Ward, who was already having a torrid time, and the 25 year old raced on to smash another effort into the top corner past the helpless Randolph to take home the match ball.

James McCleans rash tackle from behind on substitute Nicklas Bendtner, allowed the ex-Aresnal man to put the cherry on top from the peno spot. He dually obliged, hammering home to make it 5-1 and complete the rout in front of his home fans.

There will no doubt be an inquest as to why we (again) tried to defend a 1-0 lead for 85 minutes, team selections etc. but when it comes down to it, the better, more creative & technical side side progressed, as painful as it is to hear, its even worse to write.

Rep. of Ireland: Darren Randolph, Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clarke (Shane Long), Stephen Ward, David Meylor (Wes Hoolahan), Harry Artur (Aidan McGeady), Jeff Hendricks, James McClean, Daryl Murphy , Robbie Brady.

Subs: Kieran Westwood, Colin Doyle, John O’Shea, Paul McShane, Glenn Whelan, Callum O’Dowda, Conor Hourihane, Scott Hogan, Kevin Long

Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, William Kvist, Thomas Delaney, Nicolai Jorgensen (Nicklas Bendtner), Christian Eriksen, Andreas Bjelland, Jens Stryger Larsen (Peter Ankersen), Yussuf Poulsen (Andreas Cornelius), Pione Sisto

Subs: Frederik Ronnow, Jonas Lossl, Mike Jensen, Jannik Vestergaard, Mathias Jorgensen,, Jonas Knudsen, Martin Braithwaite, Lukas Lerager, Lasse Schone

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (POL)

Darryl Geraghty

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