Friday 21 October 2016

Robbie Brady braced for his big test in green

Robbie takes on mantle of Harte

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady

HE struggled in his Polish test, by his own admission.

But Robbie Brady has been doing his homework and getting himself to a point where he's ready for the most crucial exam of all, Saturday's meeting with Scotland in Dublin.

His international situation has moved on rapidly. Brady, still only 23, did not kick a ball in the first three games of the qualifying campaign and was only a half-time sub for the fourth test, but is now likely to start his second competitive game in a row, at left back against Scotland on Saturday.

It's the old adage that a door closes for one man and opens for another - had Brady's fellow northsider Stephen Ward not picked up a serious ankle injury in early December, which would sideline him to the extent that he would play just twice (as sub) for his club in the last six months of the season, then Ward would be in at left full against the Scots.

But Brady filled in for Ward against Poland, survived some dodgy moments, and did enough to get a start against the English on Saturday.

"There were a couple of little cagey moments," he says of that 1-1 draw at home to Poland.

"It's just getting used to the position and it's different to the one I was playing with, back with the club.

"With the left wing back role, you've got an extra man behind you.

"It is a learning curve but with the lads playing with me and little tips here and there, I feel as if I'm getting more comfortable with the position every time I play.

"We've been working on it for the last couple of weeks and I feel good and ready to go."

Barring an upset when it comes to O'Neill's selection, he will play against the Scots as Brady - a player who struggled to convince Giovanni Trapattoni - has grown into the squad in recent times.

And it was clear from Sunday's 0-0 draw with England - in fact, this was the only positive note for Ireland from the bore-all draw - that Brady poses a real threat from deal balls, though there is then the matter of concentrating on the job of defending while trying to spark something in attack from a free-kick.

"You have do to it. Everyone is the same, everyone has their own jobs," Brady explains.

"If I'm needed to do a few set-pieces as well as defend, I'm happy to do it. I practice quite a bit, hopefully they come off at the weekend

"You can practice all you like all week, the weekend is the most important. Hopefully, I can put in some good balls."

Brady's form at left back and his dead-ball delivery has revived memories of another man who did that job to great effect.

With 12 goals in his 63 games for Ireland, Ian Harte had a better strike rate than many strikers and his set pieces saved Ireland on more than one occasion, a fact that Brady is aware of.

"Of course, I remember him, he was one of the best ever with his left foot. He probably set me off wanting to take set-pieces watching the likes of Ian Harte," says the Hull City man.

With not much going on club-wise these days, international stories are a bonus for news-gatherers in the UK and the Liverpool Echo made a big deal of the fact that Sunday's Ireland-England game was the first time in an international that Everton had five players involved in the same match.

Hull City, despite their demotion to the Championship for next season, will have a presence in Dublin on Sunday, Brady expected to play for Ireland and Andy Robertson likely to be in the Scottish XI.

"I think he's a great player and a great lad. It's always good to have the competition at the club and I'll be looking forward to seeing him at the weekend but I'll talk to him after the match," says Brady as Robertson - like Brady - has been linked with a move away from Hull as a consequence of relegation.

"He's a good player and he's still young. I'm sure people will be going after him, with the attributes that he's got and can bring to any team. He's attack-minded and strong going forward so I'm sure he will be in some people's eyes."

Brady was a sub in the away defeat to Scotland but he's around long enough to know what's required on Saturday.

"It was a chance let go the last time so we'll be trying to make up for it this time and hopefully come away with the three points," Brady says.

"I think they're a good set-up and have some good players like ourselves. It'll be a tight game, I'm sure, like most of the games in this group but hopefully we can get our stuff right and just edge it."

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