Ireland hang in there for a draw against Poland in Poznan
Jon Walters captains new-look side as Aiden McGeady impresses in otherwise scrappy affair
Ireland’s Aiden McGeady and Piotr Celeban of Poland during the 0-0 draw in Poznan. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane in Poznan. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Poland 0 Rep of Ireland 0
They made a little less noise at the end than they had following the dismal defeats at the Euros but the tiny band of Irish travelling supporters still reckoned they had something to sing about after seeing their side held out for a draw against Poland in Poznan. And they didn’t seem to mind too much whether or not Roy Keane approved.
His boss will draw positives from the way his side started then kept their hosts at bay through a second half in which they were completely dominated. His suggestion on Monday that the amount of work that lies ahead would be apparent through the game proved true, too, though with the Irish a little lucky at times that Poland couldn’t quite turn their possession and superior passing into something a little more menacing.
There were times when the David Forde’s defenders winged it a little but the goalkeeper’s few real saves were prompted by shots from distance and none over the course of the 90 minutes needed to be remotely spectacular.
O’Neill made seven changes to the side that started on Friday night, enough to ensure that Alex Pearce was the only outfield squad member not to have been involved as the game kicked off, though he got his chance in the second half when he replaced James McCarthy.
Having said O’Shea would most likely captain the side, the northerner left him out, partnering Seán St Ledger with Marc Wilson in central defence instead and giving the armband to Jon Walters. The Sunderland defender was involved soon enough, though, with St Ledger limping off 32 minutes in with a groin injury and within five of that the 32-year-old was gravely upsetting the locals by brazenly raising a hand to stop the ball when Robert Lewandowski had knocked it over his head into space. The Pole was the clear favourite to reach the ball first.
Until then, the Borussia Dortmund striker had been handled well enough by Wilson whose efforts to get tight to his man caused the occasional bit of friction. The northerner still shows a worrying inclination to play with fire at times and when he got caught out by the striker in a game of double bluff he was fortunate only to concede a throw.
Either side of them, the full-backs showed a reasonable amount of enterprise early on as Ireland more than held their own but towards the end of the half Poland began to gain momentum and they might well have opened the scoring from a move that started when Stephen Ward needlessly played a pass without taking a touch and gifted the home side the opportunity to break.
Jakub Blaszczykowski was the one who eventually tried but narrowly failed to find his club-mate on that occasion and the Polish skipper proved a major threat all night, playing just a little deeper than the striker but showing an eagerness to take on defenders or slice the back four open with low through balls.