Ciaran Callan at the Aviva Stadium
Going into the game unbeaten and following an impressive draw away to Denmark, Ireland knew a win over Gibraltar going into the summer recess of football would be a well-needed boost. While it would always be expected that Ireland should overcome their opponents from the ‘rock nothing is to be certain when it comes to international football. While Mick McCarty’s first win back was against the British Overseas Territory and the good form has continued since it was overshadowed by off the field elements. Tonight they can send a clear message that playing in the Aviva Stadium as part of the Euro 2020 group is high on the team’s priorities this time next year. Another win would make that another step closer to reality.
The game wasn’t ninety seconds old when the hero of Copenhagen Shane Duffy headed just over from a Conor Hourihane cross, David McGoldrick was blasted wide moments later as Ireland set their stall out early to settle the Aviva Stadium nerves. Tjay De Barr went on a run and his effort didn’t trouble Randolph it gives Ireland an indication to continue the high tempo. Scott Hogan broke free of the Ireland defence only for Goldwin to be alert to the danger and pull off a smart save, however, the linesman had his flag up and any goal wouldn’t have counted.
David McGoldrick almost scored his first international goal just before the half-hour mark when Seamus Coleman crossed into the area from the right and McGoldrick slotted home however it took a massive deflection off Joseph Chipolina to put the hosts ahead and credited the admin clerk by day and Gibraltar defender by night with the unfortunate own goal. Callum Robinson almost added a second moments later only for his back-heeled effort to go just wide of the right-hand post. On the stroke of half time, it looked as if he went one better with a delightful curling effort that just went wide of the post, inches away from adding the much wanted second.
Ireland continued to push for a second in the second half, David McGoldrick had a chance saved by Goldwin which in reality he could have done better. Liam Walker had a chance for the visitors to get an unlikely equaliser after he broke free from the Irish defence in a rare counter-attack, his shot, however, was tame and didn’t trouble Randolph. Scott Hogan forced a smart save at the near post-Goldwin, however, got the vital hand to it to tip it around the post. McGoldrick nearly finally got his name on the scoresheet but his curling effort hit the post. While Ireland was knocking on the door the final piece of the phases of play was letting them down. Sean Maguire came on and gave added width and pace to the front line but couldn’t get a trademark goal he has been craving for in an Ireland jersey. Robbie Brady had a chance late on but his curling effort went well over the bar. He did however get his just rewards following a curling James McClean cross with real venom and pace saw the midfielder head it home to settle the tie.
Ireland made it a lot more difficult than they should have but in reality, they are still unbeaten and are collecting early and vital points in what is going to be a more difficult qualifying campaign as it wears on. Plenty of food for thought for Mick McCarthy as he heads out the door of the Aviva Stadium tonight. He will know Irish sporting spirting will only get you so far.
Ireland: Darren Randolph, Seamus Coleman, Enda Stevens, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean, Callum Robinson (Robbie Brady 73), David McGoldrick, Scott Hogan (Sean Maguire 65).
Subs not used: Sean McDermott, James Talbot, Glenn Whelan, Matthew Doherty, John Egan, Callum O’Dowda, Josh Cullen, Ronan Curtis, Greg Cunningham.
Gilbrator: Kyle Goldwin, Joseph Chipolina, John Sergeant, Louie Annesley, Lee Casciaro (Anthony Bardon 10), Liam Walker, Alain Pons (Ethan Britto 63), Jayce Olivero, Roy Chipolina, Andrew Hernandez (Ethan Jolley 75), Tjay De Barr.
Subs not used: Dayle Coleing, Jean-Carlos Garcia, Reece Styche, Erin Barnett, Aymen Mouelhi, Anthony Hernandez, Jamie Coombes, Adam Priestly.
Booked: Jayce Olivero
Sent Off: None
Man of the Match: David McGoldrick.
Referee: Radu Petrescu (Romania)