Roberto Martínez delighted with Belgium’s ‘very meaningful game’

Manager admits Thierry Henry won’t ‘be too upset’ over boos from the crowd

Roberto Martínez and Stephen Kenny share an agent in Eamon McLoughlin. This led to a meeting a few years back when the former Everton manager was taken by Kenny's attention to detail.

He was also taken by the man, and said as much during Belgium’s blemished visit to Dublin.

“We read the game in a similar manner. We had a couple of contacts and conversations. He’s someone I could really connect with on football ideas.”

So much so that Martínez swiped Kenny's on-pitch trainer Anthony Barry ahead of Belgium's golden generation making one last push to win a major tournament in Qatar this winter.


“I am always worried playing friendlies at international level but this was anything but a friendly,” said Martínez after a thrilling 2-2 finish, “but this was a very meaningful game. The crowd made it a really, really good atmosphere.

“In the last 15 minutes [of the first half] the crowd and the emotion and Ireland on the front foot pressing high and winning balls high, we didn’t know how to impose ourselves.

“When we scored the second goal we should have been a bit more rational in how to manage the game. Probably in the last 10 minutes we allowed Ireland to build on the momentum they had. I did like the attitude of our players coming to a place like this with a full crowd.”

That sounded like genuine respect from the manager of the number one ranked team in the world as the Irish 3-4-2-1 rattled the Belgian 3-4-2-1 with mostly League One and Championship players like John Egan imposing themselves on Champions League performers.

In reality, Belgium, despite resting all their veterans, had 61 per cent possession and were only troubled when defending a lead.

Perhaps they were the architects of their own inability to win. Serves them right for allowing Thierry Henry and Barry to sit beside each other, long enough to be plastered across the stadium's big screen. The booing of handball-Henry, and less so Barry, turned into raucous noise. Sounds that Lansdowne Road used to guarantee on these nights as memories of that Parisian robbery in 2009 flooded the senses.

“Thierry is quite an experienced man,” smiled Martínez. “I don’t think he will be too upset. He understands.”

The Irish players visibly reacted to the half-angry, half-jokey chastising of Henry, with Chiedozie Ogbene's overhead kick following soon after . . . although Barry had the last laugh with one of his special corners yielding a free header for Hans Vanaken to score.