Misfiring Ireland not giving Goal of the Year judges many options
With just one match to go – against Denmark – there are just four contenders for the award
Ireland’s Aiden O’Brien scores his side’s first goal during the friendly against Poland in September. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
It would be an understatement to say that the feeling around the Irish national team at the moment is pretty low.
No goals in five hours of football, a drab 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland on Thursday night and impending relegation from the Nations League adds up to a pretty grim year.
But what about the FAI Goal of the Year award? Well, it won’t shock anyone to say that the pickings are on the slim side with the four choices so far just about filling the usual list of three nominations.
The award has seen some stellar winners in recent years with James McClean’s right-footed strike to beat Wales in Cardiff and secure a World Cup qualifying playoff place taking the spoils last year. Previous to that we had Robbie Brady’s header against Italy at Euro 2016, in 2015 it was Shane Long’s thunderous bullet to beat world champions Germany in Dublin, Aiden McGeady’s last minute winner away to Georgia took the gong in 2014 and the year before that it was Long’s goal against England at Wembley.
This year the judges might be hard pressed.
With one more international game to be played by Ireland in 2018 - against Denmark in the Nations League on Monday - Martin O’Neill’s side have scored exactly four goals in eight matches. Interestingly three of those goals have come from players making their debuts and all four were first-time goalscorers at senior level for Ireland.
So what are the options so far?
Well, kicking off the list we have the 2-1 friendly win over the USA in June - the last time Ireland scored two goals in a match since October 2017.
The opening goal in that game came from Graham Burke who became the first man currently playing in the League of Ireland to score for Ireland since Ray Treacy, also of Shamrock Rovers, scored in 1978.
Burke’s goal probably won’t be winning many awards, however, as it was a tap-in on the goal line from a Darragh Lenihan shot which may have been going in already.
The second selection also comes in that same game and it was a last minute winner from Alan Judge to make it a winning send-off for John O’Shea. At these early stages we probably have this one top of the list as it was a nice opportunistic strike off the left foot which took a slight deflection off the goalkeeper before rattling the underside of the crossbar and dropping in. James McClean may have been about to take a shot himself after a driving run into the box but Judge saw his chance and took it to seal what is, so far, Ireland’s one and only victory this year.
Four days later it was time to get the Nations League campaign underway with a clash against Wales in Cardiff.
And we all know how that went down.
A 4-1 drubbing was lifted slightly only by a lovely consolation goal from Shaun Williams in the final minutes. After coming off the bench in the second half the Millwall man capitalised on a Welsh defensive error to steal in and dink a lovely chip over the onrushing Wayne Hennessey to grab a first goal in only his second appearance for Ireland.
And then we come to the end of this, admittedly rather short, shortlist.
The last time Ireland scored a goal came against Poland in a friendly back in September. Once again it was a debut scorer and, for the second match in a row, it was a Millwall man who netted it. After being handed a first cap by O’Neill, Aiden O’Brien repaid his manager with a 53rd minute glacing header after a lovely turn and cross from Callum O’Dowda.
And that completes the list.
It’s been a barren year for Ireland in more ways than one and it’s safe to say the FAI judging panel will be hoping for someone to fire in a screamer in Aarhus on Monday evening.