Shaun Maloney strikes again as Ireland's Euro 2016 hopes all but vanish
Republic of Ireland 1 Scotland 1
– 13 June 2015 07:07 PM
A nation holds off on booking French language lessons as, on the back of yet another disappointing home display from the Republic of Ireland against Scotland, Euro 2016 is almost certain to go ahead without Martin O'Neill's team.
There may be an Irish presence in France next year but from Michael O'Neill's side and not that of Martin, as automatic qualification is now gone from the Republic's grasp, with Poland taking a step closer to the finals with a 4-0 home win over Georgia, and even a play-off spot is now unlikely for Ireland.
An inability to hold the lead for longer than 10 minutes, after Jon Walters had put Ireland in front seven minutes before half time, cost dearly as a John O'Shea own goal a minute after the restart earned Scotland the point and keeps the Scots in the hunt.
Three points from the four group games against Germany, Poland and Scotland is a very poor haul for am Ireland side who had real ambitions of qualification before this group started, and the only way that Ireland can get back into contention now is for one of the top three to collapse in the autumn qualifiers, something that's unlikely to happen as Scotland and Poland in particular have looked steady throughout.
The game had been billed as a battle of wits between the two managers more than anything else, and Martin O'Neill was keen to get his stake in early on, with a team selection which Gordon Strachan - nor anyone else - would have predicted.
James McClean, Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane all started on the bench while Jeff Hendrick - so ineffective away to Scotland in November - and Daryl Murphy - in for his first competitive start at the age of 31 - were given a chance.
And understandably, it took everyone some time to get to grips with the formation and the game itself. The Scots had early threats from Steven Naismith and Darren Fletcher, which didn't really trouble Shay Given, and all Ireland had in response was an off-target shot from Glenn Whelan on 17 minutes.
There was some concern among the home support when yellow cards were shown at two Ireland players in the space of a few minutes, Whelan booked for a clumsy foul on Steven Fletcher and James McCarthy going into the book on the half-hour mark for leaving his mark on Russell Martin.
Those worries eased greatly on 38 minutes when Walters gave Ireland the lead. Murphy had earned the corner by forcing a save from David Marshall, Murphy then got his head to Robbie Brady's corner kick and while Cardiff man Marshall blocked Murphy's header, Walters was on hand to stab home the rebound.
Scotland used the respite of the half-time break well as they drew level within a minute of the restart, Shaun Maloney firing in a shot after a one-two with sub Ikechi Anya and his effort took a deflection off John O'Shea to go past Given.
Home fans looked to the dugout and a change from Martin O'Neill but even at the 68-minute mark, the introduction of James McClean was too late, as Strahcan had made his switch at half time and the Scottish sub, Watford man Anya, had a real impact on the game.
Murphy sparked a reaction from the crowd with a headed effort on 72 minutes and just after that, the home fans rose to acclaim the arrival off the bench of Robbie Keane but the captain was unable to add to his tally of goals.
O'Neill's final change - replacing the clearly-tired Murphy with Shane Long - in the 80th minute was way too late, giving Long no time to make real contribution, the sort of decision we came to expect from Giovanni Trapattoni and more was expected from a man like O'Neill.
McClean went close with a header from another Brady set piece on 83 minutes but the Scottish back four looked solid and prepared, and this hard-earned Dublin draw means the Scots can keep France in mind, but Ireland's future looks very bleak.
IRELAND: Given (Aston V), Coleman (Everton), Wilson (Stoke C), O'Shea (Sunderland, cap), Brady (Hull C), Hendrick (Derby C), Whelan (Stoke C), McCarthy (Everton), Walters (Stoke C), Hoolahan (Norwich C), Murphy (Ipswich T). SUBS: McClean (Wigan) for Whelan, 68, Keane (LA
Galaxy) for Hoolahan, 73; Long (Southampton) for Murphy, 81.