Amid the excitement of the fast approaching Premier League season, and with the shadow of Gareth Bale’s potential world record transfer looming large, it was an international week in which international football barely got a look in, and this celtic clash did little to grab anyone’s attention, at a sparsely populated Cardiff City Stadium.
The Irish visitors brought a strong squad to the Welsh capital, and Giovanni Trappatoni’s side dominated the early exchanges. Looking more organised and sharper on the ball than their Welsh counterparts, Ireland created chances, and both Shane Long and Jonathan Walters would have been disappointed not to give Ireland the lead.
Wales never looked uncomfortable at the back, but it would certainly have concerned Chris Coleman at how easily the likes of Long and Walters threatened Boaz Myhill’s goal. Myhill proved up to the challenge, marking himself out as a strong contender for man of the match on a night low on individual quality, but the Wales boss will wonder how upcoming opponents such as Goran Pandev and Christian Benteke will fare, if given as much time and space.
In the second half, Long was given another glorious chance to win it, and after scooping his first opportunity high and wide, it took a brilliant save from Myhill to deny him. And were it not for further interventions from Myhill and skipper Ashley Williams, substitutes Paddy Madden and James McClean almost certainly would have given Ireland victory.
Without Bellamy at his sparkling best and with the much discussed absences of Bale and Ramsey, it was hard to spot a match winner in red. Many will point to the impressively organised Irish squad, with their international experience and know how clear for all to see at times, but Coleman will know that his team need to adapt and learn to win without their stars. One superstar does not equate to a so called ‘golden generation’, and if that tag is not to become a millstone around this team’s neck, then others must learn to take responsibility. One moment of magic would have won it against Ireland, and to compete on the big stage, Wales must learn to stop relying on Bale to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
I attended the Wales - Ireland game with the Bridgend County Borough Council Young Critics scheme. Thanks to Guy O'Donnell (BCBC) for organising, and also to Media Wales' Chris Wathan for his pre-match insight. More info on the Young Critics scheme can be found here.