by Gavin Cooney at the Cardiff City Stadium
As Ireland went to Cardiff on the anniversary of the Richard Dunne Resistance in Moscow, memories stirred of doughty Irish nights of the past. Within ten seconds of kick-off in Cardiff, it was clear that this wouldn't be one.
The kick off went back to Shane Duffy, who shaped to sling the ball upfield to nobody in particular. Before Duffy had time to realise it, the ball was charged down by Gareth Bale.
This wasn't just about Bale, though: Wales were hungrier, sharper, faster, fitter, more astute and just....better than Ireland in every facet of the game. It ended 4-1 to a Welsh side who took their foot of the gas once they had their fourth.
Here are the Irish player ratings on a grim, grim night.
Darren Randolph - 5
Easily beaten at his near post for two of the first three goals, but at least didn't do a Loris Karius and dealt with a long-range knuckle ball from Bale. Made a superb save to deny Tyler Roberts a goal with his first electric involvement in the second half.
Seamus Coleman - 6
Arguably Ireland's best performer on the night, and in spite of Christie playing ahead of him, it was Coleman's forays forward which proved most enterprising. A first-half cut back for Callum Robinson was narrowly screwed over by the debutant. Never stopped running in the second half.
Shane Duffy - 4
The charge down by Bale in the opening seconds set the tone for everyone's night, and Duffy was no exception. Careless on the ball, and humiliated by a Ramsey flick just after Wales scored their fourth goal. Didn't make an impact offensively, either.
Ciaran Clark - 3
Ain't no shank out of play like a Ciaran Clark shank out of play. We saw a couple of them here tonight as the Newcastle defender endured a torrid night. Horribly caught out on the first and third Welsh goals.
Stephen Ward - 3
A 50th cap to forget for one of the most consistent performers for Martin O'Neill. His distribution was appalling (owing mainly to a lack of options) and was consistently caught out under diagonal Welsh passes to Bale.
Cyrus Christie - 5
Christie's role tonight encapsulated just how muddled this side has become, specifically and holistically. To start with the latter: Christie played in front of Seamus Coleman presumably as a way of stifling Gareth Bale, a tactic rendered immediately moot by Bale's stationing up front.
To the moment: Ireland won a free-kick in the middle of the Welsh half in the first-half. Rather than put it into the box, Jeff Hendrick played it short to Christie, who was forced to cut onto his weaker foot. One bad cross and thirty seconds later, Randolph pulled off a save to stop Wales from scoring again.
He ran gamely, but made no impact.
Conor Hourihane - 4
Ireland's midfield pairing were utterly overwhelmed by four Welsh opponents, and Hourihane was left with his head spinning in the middle of it all. In his first competitive start for Ireland, he was completely anonymous, but when he is left outnumbered and outclassed, who do you blame?
Hooked for Shaun Williams after Wales scored their fourth.
Jeff Hendrick - 3
Sitting in front of the defence is not Hendrick's best position, and like Hourihane he was utterly overwhelmed by the Welsh engine room. Hendrick was frustratingly sloppy on the ball, however, and it was his loose pass that triggered Bale's stunning second goal.
Callum O'Dowda - 3
Played ninety minutes. Allegedly.
Callum Robinson - 5
Robinson struggled physically at the beginning of his international debut, but grew into the game, and twice went close with a chance fromm open play. He showed an ability to link up with those around him on occasion, but too often was left isolated. He can be, eh, less displeased with this game than his new teammates.
Jon Walters - 4
Playing up front for Ireland is the most deadening of graveyard shifts, and Walters worryingly showed signs of physical decline tonight. He was shrugged off the ball too easily, most notably by seventeen-year-old Ethan Ampadu in the lead-up to the third goal.
Shaun Williams - 6
Fair play to Williams: he made an effort to press Aaron Ramsey at the base of midfield and got a goal as a result of it. It wasn't, admittedly, gegenressing at its most furious, but rather an able disarming of a dawdling Ramsey, but Williams dinked the ball he won over Hennessy beautifully in front of the travelling Irish fans.
Enda Stevens - 5
Replaced Ward and happily for him saw Bale troop off not long after. Made a great last-ditch block on Brooks as the game ticked to a close.
Daryl Horgan - N/A
Made no impact in the final ten minutes. Given that Ireland lacked width, and that Horgan made a good impact off the bench in the last game against the U.S, he can count himself unfortunate not to start.
The low ratings here are not necessarily a reflection of the players themselves, but they stem not from a team that ran out ideas but one that didn't have any in the first place.