Ireland grind past Gibraltar, Kevin McStay in defence of the qualifiers

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Joseph Chipolina’s own goal gave Ireland the lead against Gibraltar. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Joseph Chipolina’s own goal gave Ireland the lead against Gibraltar. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The Republic of Ireland rounded off the international break and a long season with a victory, as they beat Gibraltar 2-0 at the Aviva Stadium last night. On a sun-kissed evening in Dublin Mick McCarthy’s men were full of industry - but distinctly lacking in cutting edge - as they were made to work hard by the visiting minnows. Ireland took the lead in the 29th minute after David McGoldrick’s shot deflected off Joseph Chipolina and into the Gibraltan net, before Robbie Brady added a bit of gloss to the scoreline with a 93rd-minute header. However, despite their unconvincing display Ireland sit top of their Euro 2020 qualification Group D on 10 points, following last Friday’s 1-1 draw away to Denmark. Afterwards, McCarthy said it was all about the result: “I’d love to have turned everybody on with some sexy football but, ultimately, we have won the game.”

In his column this morning Kevin McStay has launched a defence of the All-Ireland qualifiers, which he believes are “an imperfect system” but one which “remains lightyears ahead of the alternative.” And he is critical of the old Championship format - one which could see dreams dashed and an entire summer brought to a premature end by a solitary defeat. He writes: “People are nostalgic for the gripping all-on-the-day thrill of the old knockout. And it had that, for sure. But it was a cruel system and such a waste really. You put six months into preparing for one game, and then after the first round half the counties in Ireland are out. It was a cull: a savage conclusion to the championship. All the confidence that might flow from a run just evaporates.” This follows yesterday’s draw for round two of the qualifiers, with Monaghan against Armagh and Mayo versus Down the pick of the ties.

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