The West Brom striker notched the winner and has given Giovanni Trapattoni something to think about while there was also a great performance from Aiden McGeady
By Micil Glennon
Naturally enough, the mood after the game was positive. The sunny weather had set the tone for a party atmosphere around the Aviva Stadium but a solid performance capped off with a Shane Long winner 12 minutes from time, and the fact that no-one went off injured, ensured that Ireland board the plane for their training camp in Italy ahead of Euro 2012 in fine fettle.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men had the better of the first 45 minutes against Bosnia-Herzegovina but it was the introduction of Aiden McGeady at half time that sparked the game into life.
The Spartak Moscow man struck the post and produced a series of fine crosses, which caused havoc in the Bosnia defence, before teeing up Long, who had the relatively simple task of nodding home from three yards, for his seventh international goal.
Trapattoni admitted yesterday that he knows his team for the Croatia game on June 10; it will be his 'normal' team, meaning that Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle will lead the attack. Does goalscorer Long now feel that the manager saw enough to rethink?
“There are three of us on the bench that are waiting to come on as strikers so I think when we do get a chance to push Kevin and Robbie for their places, we’ve got to take it. I think myself and Jonny Walters put ourselves about well today to put a case in the manager’s head,” said the Tipperary man after the game.
And while Ireland began the game with question marks over the fitness of a number of players, the match was notable for its physicality, with Long especially keen not to hold back as he tries to dislodge his room-mate, Doyle, from the starting XI.
“I come from a hurling background so I know that if you don’t get stuck in you usually get injured so I think it’s the best way to approach every game,” added the West Brom striker.
Most of the pre-match attention was focused on Sunderland’s James McClean, earning his second cap and his first start. The 23-year-old will have learned a huge amount from playing the full game but was probably guilty of trying too hard, especially at the end, such was his desire to make an impression.
“I thought I did alright,” said McClean. “Second half, I got tired, it was warm out there. I am happy enough with my performance. Hopefully I’ll get some more playing time before the finals.”
While the former Derry City man turned in a generally positive showing, what it brought out of McGeady was even more of a story.
The 48-cap winger had spoken about not giving up his place without a fight and he let his feet to the talking, earning a deserved man of the match award in just 45 minutes. Even an unplayed pass to McClean, in plenty of space towards the end of the match, seemed to be McGeady pulling rank on the youngster.
Captain Keane was eager to praise the former Celtic man after the game, calling his performance “superb”. Keane himself looked sharp during his 63 miuntes but took a heavy knock to the ribs at the start of the game and required a short rest by the side of the pitch to catch his breath.
He said it was “a little bit sore, nothing too serious” and that the hamstring was “fine”. Making inroads in Group C would be immeasurably harder without the record goalscorer.
The other good news on the injury front was the 20-minute cameo of Sean St Ledger, named to start yesterday but demoted to the bench with a minor groin complaint before the game.
He came through with no issues. So Il Trap will take the win and the performance and keep his fingers crossed that the mini injury plague has passed. Next up is a friendly against Hungary on June 4.
The countdown truly begins.