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4 Players Who Stood Out in Ireland's Draw With Israel

4 Players Who Stood Out in Ireland's Draw With Israel
By Oisin Gaffey
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By Oisin Gaffey from Tallaght Stadium

The Republic Of Ireland Under 21's drew 1-1 to Israel on Friday night in Tallaght Stadium in a cagey first leg of their European Championship qualification play-off. After conceding just before half time, Jim Crawford's men responded well, scoring an equaliser through striker Evan Ferguson.

Ireland should have won the game with the amount of chances they created, particularly through Aaron Connolly, but were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty in the 79th minute. Connolly, who shined throughout this match, was fouled inside the box and the defender was sent off. However, the referee instead awarded Ireland a free kick, much to the anger of the home fans. This is a decision we hope will not come back to haunt the Boys in Green.

Ireland will go into Tuesday night's decider on level terms with Israel, but will feel they should be in a more advantageous position.

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Four players in particular stood out for Ireland on the night, they are as follows:

Aaron Connolly

23 September 2022; Aaron Connolly of Republic of Ireland reacts during the UEFA European U21 Championship play-off first leg match between Republic of Ireland and Israel at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

 

Following his surprise inclusion within the U21 squad, Aaron Connolly was thrust into the starting lineup by Jim Crawford. Desperate to prove himself, from the first minute it was evident that Connolly was up for it, making plenty of darting runs and linking up nicely with left wing-back Tyreik Wright. Connolly had two good chances in the opening 20 minutes, forcing saves from the Israeli goalkeeper.

In the 63rd minute, Connolly found himself in a 1v1 situation with the much slower Israeli centre back. He drove by him and looked to be fouled, but the referee waved it off as the ball went out for an Irish corner. Evan Ferguson scored from the corner and Ireland were back on level terms, owing much to the tenacity of Connolly.

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In the 79th minute the Galway native was brought down by the Israeli defender on the fringes of the box, it looked a certain penalty that would help Ireland take the lead. Instead, a free kick was awarded, alongside a red card for the defender. Smallbone's free kick ultimately amounted in nothing. After the match, Ireland manager Jim Crawford said he felt Ireland deserved a penalty.

In the 94th minute, with the game all but over, it looked as if the striker was through on goal when a favourable bounce set him up for a volley at goal. His attempt flying just high of the crossbar was the last attack of the game.

Such was the impressiveness of Connolly's performance, he was deservedly awarded man of the match for his efforts. He put in a good shift and played with a hunger that has been missing from his previous games.

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READ HERE: Ireland U21s: All To Play For As Big Evan Ferguson Levels Playoff Tie

Evan Ferguson

23 September 2022; Evan Ferguson of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA European U21 Championship play-off first leg match between Republic of Ireland and Israel at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

 

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Ireland's goal scorer on the night, Ferguson put in an impressive performance and was rewarded with his first goal for the under 21's. Ferguson climbed highest to get on the end of a delightful cornrt from Tyreik Wright to draw Ireland level with 25 minutes of the 90 to go.

Aside from his goal, Ferguson's all round play was good, utilising his size and strength to hold up the ball in attack whilst also drawing fouls in dangerous positions. The 17-year-old backed his speed and strength against a tiring Israeli defence in the second half to drive his side forwards.

He was replaced by Mipo Odubeko in the 74th minute and was met with thunderous applause for his important goal.

Joe Hodge

23 September 2022; Republic of Ireland manager Jim Crawford and Joe Hodge of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA European U21 Championship play-off first leg match between Republic of Ireland and Israel at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Making his debut for the Republic of Ireland under 21's on Friday night, Joe Hodge put together a strong performance to help his side to a 1-1 draw. The Wolves midfielder possessed an edge to his play on the night, constantly making himself a nuisance for the opposition, always hunting down the ball.

In the later stages of the first half Ireland were starting to lose their grip on the match, however, Hodge fought hard in the midfield to give his side a foothold in a midfield that was starting to get overrun.

Regularly scrapping for a loose ball and linking up nicely with midfield partner Conor Coventry, Hodge was very composed on the ball. He put on an impressive debut display on Friday night before being replaced by Dawson Devoy midway through the second half.

Hodge's performance was rewarded by loud applause from the home fans who appreciated his efforts throughout the night.

Eiran Cashin

23 September 2022; Eiran Cashin of Republic of Ireland after the UEFA European U21 Championship play-off first leg match between Republic of Ireland and Israel at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

 

Eiran Cashin's performance was very solid on Friday night, he looked calm and composed on the ball and very comfortable aerially. An experienced figure amongst an unfamiliar back there, the Derby defender used his experience to dominate the aerial battle and provide a platform for the team going forward.

At times the defence looked unsure, but Cashin regularly stepped up with important blocks to help his side. On the ball he spread play wide, looking to use the wingers' pace as a means of attack. Overall Cashin put in a solid performance and controlled an inexperienced backline well throughout the 90 minutes.

Unfortunate not to score himself, Cashin was impressive all over the pitch on Friday night.

Honourable mention - Tyreik Wright

Wright provided the cross from a corner for Evan Ferguson's goal and looked dangerous with the ball in attack. Naturally more comfortable as a winger however, his defensive skills left a bit to be desired. Wright linked up nicely with Connolly early in the first half and again early in the second half, but occasionally found himself stood still when he could be making deceptive runs. Overall it was a good performance from Wright in the attacking sense, but he looks unsure defensively.

Overall, Ireland should have won this game considering the amount of chances they had. After a cagey first half that saw Israel take a surprise lead, they raised the tempo in the second half and found an equaliser. They were victims of poor officiating on a few occasions but still could have taken more of their chances.

In a game that saw two foul throws penalised, it was not a game for the ages. However, the important thing is that they go into Tuesday's game on equal footing, where they will look to capitalise on their mistakes made on Friday night.

SEE ALSO: How To Watch Ireland vs Scotland This Weekend

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