Coleman’s injury sours a productive night for Ireland
Depleted Republic pick up a deserved point in a game which produced few chances
Colemangoes down under Taylor’s tackle. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The 0-0 draw was no surprise. But nobody could have predicted such a wild and ugly night between Ireland and Wales in a match which will always revolve around the horrific leg-break suffered by the Irish captain Seamus Coleman. After the crowd - magnificently loyal and loud on this evening - melted away, Martin O’Neill confirmed that the Killybegs man had been taken to hospital and sounded subdued as he assessed things.
“It is a big blow for him. He is having the season of a lifetime and it is a big loss to Everton and to us. He will fight back I hope but it put things in perspective.
"I’ve been told it’s not great and that even the television stopped from showing the replay. I would like to be in a position to see the challenge. The players said it wasn’t great and the television people said it wasn’t good and that’s not good for Seamus.”
Neil Taylor’s 67th minute tackle was the low point of a helter-skelter second half which followed no script and it dominated the conversation late into the evening.
“It looks like it’s a bad one,” admitted Chris Coleman, the Wales Manager.
“Neil has had a serious injury himself. He is a great boy and he is a cracking lad. I’ve not seen the challenge but it looks like a bad one for Seamus. He is someone I respect and is one of the best backs in the Premier League. I am not sitting on the fence. I have seen a picture of the outcome.
"And Neil Taylor is devastated himself. He is not that type of player. I don’t think Seamus was there but Neil went across to the Republic’s changing room. There is no excuse for a bad challenge. I don’t want to see a player with a serious injury. That’s not what football is about. And I just hope Seamus is back sooner rather than later.”
It was, Coleman insisted, “ a typical British derby. Full of needle.” Probably not the description James McClean would use, but still.
In the 57th minute the Derry man stood glowering over a free kick maybe ten yards outside Wales box. He was in Gareth Bale country, in other words. A full house in Lansdowne may have idly believed it about to witness one of those Irish football moments when a Derry kid, with the city’s pain fizzing through his veins was about to do what the Real Madrid star was supposed to do.
He struck the ball with fury. But this was not a night for magic. It clattered against a wall of Welsh men. The linesman whistled for offside. Glenn Whelan, who had won the free, wiped the blood from his head and returned with a lavish headband.
Just after that, Bale was yellow-carded for a reckless lunge at the ball which caught John O’Shea square on the shin. He misses the next match against Serbia with a second yellow but the challenge seemed to inflame his-team mates.
Seconds later, the desperate tackle by Taylor on Ireland’s captain drew a quickly-issued red card from the referee. All decorum left the night after that and with 10 minutes left and McClean now playing like a man possessed, Martin O’Neill sent in Aiden McGeady as Ireland tried to win the match. Wales would not buckle. As 0-0 games go, this was wild and fractious.
Beforehand, Ireland would have settled for this result but Coleman’s misfortune soured the evening and leaves Martin O’Neill with an uncomfortable phone call to make to Ronald Koeman. Wales hung tough and did enough to suggest the visit to Cardiff next autumn to close out this group will be crucial - and just as wild.
Gareth Bale, inevitably, sucked up much of the oxygen in the arena from the first whistle. For most of the time, he floated around centre trying to pretend he wasn’t the most expensive commodity in south Dublin but almost undid Ireland with a couple of exquisite shots and a brilliant first half pass to Taylor, who won’t remember his poor touch in the 23rd minute after this. But Bale’s challenge on O’Shea also drew a lot of criticism.
“In real time I thought he was travelling at great speed and he has to go for it,” said Coleman.
“I thought your boys have not come off with halos on their heads. I am not complaining. It was a typical British game of football. Some of your boys were a bit late here and there and some of our boys were as well.”
If Bale was the photo-opp’ of the night, then McClean was, for long periods, the most compelling player on the field. Never shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve, it has been an emotional week for the Derry man and from the first whistle last night he played like someone representing a hurting city. He wore number five in honour of his friend and former team-mate Ryan McBride and patrolled the left side of the pitch at an even higher intensity than normal.
The occasion felt ripe for something special but the composition of the two teams, Bale’s individual splendour notwithstanding, made that difficult.
“I didn’t think we played well in the first half. We surrendered possession too easily. In the second half we improved,” O’Neill said. “I thought the crowd were fantastic and in the last 20 minutes we could have won it. That said, when Gareth Bale dispossessed Richard Keogh and missed by inches; that would have been hard to take.”
It would. Even after the Coleman incident, with the home crowd in a heightened state, Bale shimmered with danger, breaking forward in the 85th minute and firing a shot which was frightening in its ambition and skill. A Welsh chorus sounded defiantly from the terrace but the chief intrigue was whether Ireland could break Wales' ten men in what was a hectic, pattern-less end-to-end derby.
With space opening up, McClean became the chief menace on the field and twice fired deflected thunder bolts at the Welsh.
“I think he was given man of the match and he played very strongly,” said O’Neill.
“Played brave and with his heart as he always does. But he played with a great measure of discipline too.”
The mood in the arena demanded a climactic moment but this was such a frayed affair that even an individualist such as Bale couldn’t produce anything to separate these teams. Serbia move joint top of the group with Ireland on eleven points. It is still a fine position for Martin O’Neill’s team but for now, all thoughts are with his captain, whose next game in an Irish shirt may be quite some time away.