Bazunu and Omobamidele give Ireland reasons for optimism

Stephen Kenny praises young duo after standout performances against Serbia

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu makes an early save during the 2022 World Cup qualifying draw with Serbia. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu makes an early save during the 2022 World Cup qualifying draw with Serbia. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Fitting that Gavin Bazunu and Andrew Omobamidele are the spokesmen for this Ireland team after that result. Already spokesmen of a generation by deed, the 19 year olds were towering figures in the face of a Serbian onslaught that was perilously close to being a resounding defeat at the Aviva stadium for Stephen Kenny’s young team.

‘Are you sure you are only 19?’ RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue asked Bazunu - the undisputed man of the match - after his four, five, six interventions to deny Serbia that match-killing second goal.

“100 per cent yeah,” he laughed before quickly reverting to the slow monotone of an assassin. “Andrew was unbelievable coming in after only playing a couple of games and the confidence he showed - I think that is what Stephen Kenny is trying to do with this squad, bring in young lads and give them a chance.

“You see what happens - it will pay off for us in the future.”

Bazunu, when asked if this was the most emotional game of his career, did not miss a beat before reviving the memory of his debut, the 1-0 loss to Luxembourg last March. Not exorcised yet, but getting there.

“It is my first playing time playing in front a crowd like that,” said Omobamidele, as Shane Duffy wondered if he is nervous to be on television. “I didn’t feel tired sprinting back because of the crowd, it was my first time experiencing something like that.”

And what of his late, late winner that never will be?

“I thought it was in,” said the Leixlip man of a thunderous injury time shot that was parried by Predrag Rajkovic. “I was already taking my jersey off when it left my boot but the keeper pulled off a good save.”

At least he avoids the yellow card.

Omobamidele with Aleksandar Mitrovic. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Omobamidele with Aleksandar Mitrovic. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

“We can play,” Omobamidele continued. “I think the nation just has to try their best to keep faith in us. We saw against Portugal, with world-class players like Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes, and we went toe to toe with them.

“Obviously with this campaign it’s been disappointing with the two draws and one loss but I think we can take a lot from it and keep moving forward.”

Kenny can finally exhale after a thrilling result against opposition that were supposed to wipe the floor with his squad of largely English Championship and League One players.

“Composure personified,” said Kenny of the Omobamidele show. “He is so quick. When you are that quick and that composed and you are that physical, they are great attributes.

“But it is only the start for him,” Kenny said, checking the euphoria, “he has got to build on that now. He has not played that many Premier League games for Norwich. He is so young, himself and Gavin Bazunu.”

Faith in youth repaid?

“No it is not repaid yet,” said Kenny. “This is something we will see over time, that we will reap rewards. The senior players were superb, Matt Doherty in his third game in six games was on the end line crossing balls in the 89th minute. He just dug in, absolutely out on his feet, and Shane Duffy and John Egan, they were tremendous - great professionals. The young lads can learn from that.”

Kenny could, finally, take the high ground and not worry about media brickbats damaging his overall aim of getting the Republic of Ireland to the Euros in Germany in 2024.

“It sounded like a full stadium. We want more of that. We’ve got Qatar here in a friendly next month and we have Portugal to come in November and that will be a full house I am sure. That will be something that will be special and the players will look to express themselves and improve again, because we are constantly looking to improve.

“It was a good feeling to see people celebrate a goal in the stadium,” Kenny added. “But we are not in the business of celebrating a draw.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.