Cyrus Christie goes forward with full backing of his skipper
Séamus Coleman’s plight on the minds of Ireland’s players at the Aviva
Republic of Ireland full back Cyrus Christie closes down Iceland’s Ari Skulason during the friendly international match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
On Monday, Cyrus Christie went to visit Séamus Coleman. Being in that hospital room, seeing his captain begin the most harrowing struggle any professional footballer can imagine, an international friendly the following day felt almost irrelevant.
Until Coleman gave him a parting gift.
“He spoke to me as I left, he said there is no better man to fill his place. For me that is a great compliment to hear, especially from our captain, and such a great player, because he is up there as one of the best full backs in Europe.”
As Coleman’s suffering continues, to others Iceland and this night, even with this result, will always be a dream come true.
He was in good spirits. He has his family around him, and his daughter, so they are keeping him going
“I’m not too sure,” said Robbie Brady, the new captain, when asked if every footballer’s worst nightmare becoming a reality contributed to the lack of characteristic bite in this 1-0 defeat. “It’s been there since Friday night. Everyone’s been thinking about it. I don’t think it’s an excuse for the way we played in the first half today. It seemed a bit flat. A lot more will be needed come the summer.”
Come the Austria qualifier on June 11th, following warm-ups against Mexico and Uruguay, it feels safe enough to assume that Christie, providing his troublesome ankle doesn’t buckle under the strain of Derby County’s mid-table Championship campaign, will start at right back in place of Coleman.
“He was in good spirits,” said Christie. “He has his family around him, and his daughter, so they are keeping him going.
“Séamus is very strong mentally, he is a great character. He is just looking forward to getting on the road to recovery.”
Christie admitted the Ireland squad have been traumatised by the double break Coleman suffered following the tackle by Wales’ Neil Taylor that resulted in a red card. Not for the loss of their captain or such an important player, but the damage done to the man, and by the fickleness of the game they all play.
“Of course any kind of injury, whether it is your leader or not, if it happened to anyone, it is a shock to the system. It’s not nice to see.
“It will rattle the squad. When that kind of stuff happens it puts a lot into perspective. The last thing on your mind is concentrating on games. It was obviously a tough thing to take. Whether or not that has been hanging over our heads, we had to get on with it tonight. We did grow into that game and probably should have come out with a better result.
“We have a lot of mentally strong characters in the squad and have shown we have a great spirit here and hopefully that can bring us through.”
Turning purely to football matters, it was important that a right back showed well for Ireland and in that regard, certainly in an attacking sense, Christie delivered.
“Séamus is a big loss,” Christie continued. “He is a fantastic player, he has been great for us.
“These are opportunities now. Hopefully I done enough tonight to prove to the manager; there were a couple of things I done well, a couple of sloppy things that I done but I was trying to make things happen. I think I went out there and played a good game.
“I can only grow from this game.”
And the dodgy ankle?
“The ankle’s not too bad. It’s a tricky one. Sometimes it just gives way. It happened in the second half, it gave way at one point, but you just got to deal with it.”
Of course, this Nordic visit gets to live forever in the memory of four sporting families. This was the night Martin O’Neill gifted the Egans, the Boyles, the Hourihanes and the Horgans with first international caps.
“He never said specifically I’d be coming on,” said Daryl Horgan following the fairytale 18 months that saw him spearhead Dundalk’s European crusade before securing a move to Preston North End and now this.
“He said there would be changes and a lot of subs, a chance for people to make debuts but he never said ‘Daryl you’re in.’
Was the family up from Galway?
“They were here just in case. It’s a special day for myself and my family. My little fella was there as well.”
Brilliant 18 months
This time last year you were away up in Finn Harps?
“Beautiful Ballybofey . . . You’re walking up to the Aviva or Villa Park so it’s definitely different, probably a year ago [thinking I would be] making my debut?
“Definitely not. You’re probably thinking try and see what happens, have a good season, get a move, good trip in Europe, we did everything and to cap it off with a debut, it’s been a brilliant 18 months and long may it continue.”
“It’s a game of football, it’s 11 v 11, you do what you can. It was a chance for me to play for Ireland, I wasn’t going to turn that down.”
It being Ireland, there’s a link between the four new internationals.
“I’d played with John Egan before and Conor Hourihane, it was nice for us all to play this time. It’s not going to be easiest with so many debutants but it was brilliant. Andy [Boyle], we’ve gone through a bit together a few of us so it’s nice to make our debuts together.”
Because of the achievement, there was a bittersweet feeling for John Egan Jnr.
“He would have been proud, tonight’s the night when you kind of miss him a bit more because you’d have loved to have seen him here,” said Egan of his father, the great Sneem footballer who gathered six All-Irelands with Kerry.
But even these sort of weeks can have a happy ending.
“It’s something you dream of as a kid, to play for your country,” said a smiling Boyle, “and thankfully I’ve fulfilled that ambition tonight.”