Ireland vs Slovakia ends in a draw

Stephen O'Brien

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Ireland maintained their unbeaten run in the lead up to Euro 2016, as they drew 2-2 in their international friendly on Tuesday against Slovakia. Martin O’Neil decided to experiment once again with his squad, as he decided to field 10 changes to the side that started the 1-0 win over Switzerland on Good Friday.

Man of the match Wes Hoolahan offered his expertise acting as the middle man at the forefront of the Irish attack. The match was overshadowed by an injury to Robert Elliott 14 minutes into the game, who was stretchered off the pitch, due to his studs getting caught in the pitch, as he attempted to save Slovakia first goal. Elliott looks set to be ruled out for at least six months with a “serious” knee injury according to Martin O’Neill.

Darren Randolph seems like the frontrunner in the race to wear the number 1 jersey, although 40 year old Shay Given will now come into contention to challenge for one of those 23 spots to France. The 3rd of June, is the final date for O’Neill to name his full squad, to UEFA ahead of Euro 2016.

Miroslav Stoch pounced on to a ball after a moment of creativity by Robert Vittek, who chipped McShane before threading a teasing ball into Stoch, who calmly composed himself and drilled the ball past Elliott.

Hoolahan’s tenacity and passion seemed to offer another dimension to Ireland’s play. Ireland utilised their possession during the match passing the ball around the pitch in a fluid manner.

YouTube / Football – via Iframely

Ten minutes after Stoch’s goal, Ireland hit back with 2 goals in a matter of minutes, as Long was fouled twice within the box.  The Slovakia keeper Matus Kozacik tackled Long, who converted the subsequent penalty. Moments later Martin Skrtel foolishly challenged Long inside the box, which resulted in Ireland’s second penalty of the night. McClean stepped up confidently and drilled his penalty into the bottom right corner evading the outstretched hand of Koziacik.

Cyrus Christie in particular had a sublime performance, as he offered an alternative to the long ball tactic with his overlapping runs. Christie’s performance brings him into contention for a place in the 23 man squad heading to France this summer.

As the half time whistle approached Vittek pressurised McShane who could only stand and stare as the ball deflected off himself and nestled in the back of the net. Martin O’Neill stated in the post match press conference that he has a good understanding of who will be included in his squad for  Euro 2016. With an ageing squad of O’Shea (34) , Keane (35) and Given (40) Ireland could potentially field one of the oldest sides in the tournament.

A host of substitutions in the second half prevented either side from resuming the open free flowing football that had entertained the fans in the first half. Ireland now have two friendlies remaining in their preparations for Euro 2016 against the Dutch and Belarusian. Ireland’s first challenge of their Euro 2016 campaign is against Sweden, which is subsequently followed by their final Group E  matches against Belgium and Italy.

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Stephen O'Brien