Andorra match gives Ireland chance to arrest alarming decline in goal-scoring

Since 2018, national side have a return of just 21 goals from their 30 games contested

  Ireland’s Shane Duffy   scoring the equaliser against Bulgaria in their Uefa Nations League   match  in Sofia, Bulgaria, on  September 3rd, 2020. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

Ireland’s Shane Duffy scoring the equaliser against Bulgaria in their Uefa Nations League match in Sofia, Bulgaria, on September 3rd, 2020. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

 

If the Republic of Ireland manage to deliver the hatful expected against Andorra tonight, those goals accompanying the win will arrest an alarming decline.

The drought that persisted between Shane Duffy’s header in Bulgaria at the start of last September and an opener by Alan Browne in Serbia at the end of March only magnified what is a recurrent theme.

To illustrate the depth of the problem, digest the following data.

Since 2018, Ireland have a return of 21 goals from their 30 games contested.

Drilling in deeper as to the reasons behind Ireland’s first non-appearance in three at the upcoming European Championships, they scored just 11 times in 21 competitive outings – one of which was an own-goal.

Only Shane Duffy and James Collins have hit the net more than once over the past 3½ years, each grabbing a brace.

Collins’s fellow strikers have failed to spark.

Even David McGoldrick, regarded as the best forward option available up to his retirement from international football last November, had one goal to show from his 14 appearances.

Off the mark

Likewise, Seán Maguire, Callum Robinson and Aiden O’Brien got no further than just off the mark.

Operating off a low base, Mick McCarthy has the most fruitful record of the three managers at the helm since 2018.

Martin O’Neill never recovered from the 5-1 mauling by Denmark in the 2017 World Cup play-off, succeeding only in scraping throughout the following year, failing to win any of his nine matches.

That year encompassed five friendlies and four matches in the new Uefa Nations League competition.

Half of his four-goal collection came in the warm-up at home to USA, a 2-1 victory franked by first international strikes for Graham Burke and Alan Judge.

Aiden O’Brien’s opener in Poland transpired to be the last goal of O’Neill’s five-year tenure, as Ireland drew blanks in the final four outings.

There was scant extravagance to the start of McCarthy’s spell, which encompassed five World Cup qualifiers in a row.

A couple of 1-0 wins over Gibraltar and Georgia, secured by midfielders Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane respectively, got the campaign off to a steady, rather than spectacular, start.

On the rare occurrence Ireland score, they have a tendency to do so late on.

Shane Duffy’s headed equaliser in Denmark and a leveller by McGoldrick against Switzerland, sandwiched in between a 2-0 home win over Gibraltar, were just two of eight goals scored on, or after, the 85th minute over the recent period.

Troubles

Friendlies against Bulgaria and New Zealand in the autumn of 2019 provided scope to rack up five goals combined but their troubles up front were highlighted in Tbilisi.

A scoreless draw, in which John Egan hit the post and debutant Aaron Connolly, damaged Ireland’s qualification ambitions.

They were once again shot-shy a few days later in the 2-0 defeat to Switzerland, leaving their destiny reliant on beating Denmark at home.

Another late goal was plundered, only the Danes had gone ahead before Matt Doherty ignited the last scenes of jubilation on show at an international match involving Ireland.

The 1-1 draw proved to be McCarthy’s last act as the FAI didn’t wait around for the delayed play-off to activate their succession plan with Stephen Kenny.

Despite the new manager deriding his predecessor’s goal-scoring (“When you take out Gibraltar, we only scored four goals in six matches), his arrival hasn’t coincided with a cure to the famine.

Ireland under Kenny haven’t scored in eight of his 11 matches, confirming that not even the most exalted of revolutionaries can get to grips with a malaise he inherited.

Tonight against the part-timers would be opportune to start.

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