A day of pewter skies made way for an evening of putrid football. Ireland and Denmark drew 0-0 at the Aviva Stadium in the Nations League this evening, as Ireland at least stopped the defensive rot that has taken hold of late. Without Christian Eriksen, Denmark were stolid; Ireland solid. Matt Doherty made little impact on his full debut, although Callum Robinson made the case for his inclusion against Wales on Tuesday with a bright performance from the bench.
Here are the Irish player ratings.
Darren Randolph - 6
What little he had to do, he did it well. Although someday he will take a goal kick quickly. Someday.
Matt Doherty - 6
Contrary to reports earlier today, Doherty did start this game but his presence wasn't particularly obvious to anyone watching.
Largely anonymous throughout, although leaped to brief, uneasy prominence as he made an unholy mess of a deep cross in first-half added time that almost resorted in a goal. Doherty has spoken openly of how Wolves' gameplan suits his proclivity for attacking in the inside channel', but that's a decoration for which Ireland have no time.
The gameplan of punting it long for Shane Long's head/midriff left Doherty isolated on the right flank, his face not really...fitting.
Shane Duffy - 6
Our Most Potent Attacking Weapon slung himself at a Jeff Hendrick free-kick in the first half and narrowly diverted the ball wide. He got little sight of goal otherwise and was untroubled by the painfully average Danes. Took a late yellow card for a theatrical dive in the penalty area.
Richard Keogh - 6
Keogh found himself on the right-hand side of the back three and performed admirably: he survived all of his one-on-one confrontations with the slippy Sisto and his use of the ball was adequate. Captain on the night.
Kevin Long - 7
Fans of nominative determinism delight: in the early stages of this game, an Ireland attack consisted of Kevin Long punting it long to Shane Long. Otherwise, while his distribution is deeply unconvincing, he was calm, assured and inch-perfect in the tackle. Defensively, a very fine performance.
Cyrus Christie - 7
Christie found himself in an unfamiliar position: playing on the right of Ireland's midfield three. He did fine - he hurtled into challenges and broke up play with reasonable efficiency. He startled the Aviva's dozy ears with a fine shot that Kasper Schmeichel into a good save, which proved to be Ireland's only shot on target.
Harry Arter - 6
Arter's selection has relegated his flashpoint with Roy Keane to the status of just another of this reign's quiddities. Here he harried and hassled his way around midfield quite well, although was lucky to escape a red card for a wild lunge midway through the first-half. His passing wasn't notably good, but Ireland have very few midfielders quite as tenacious.
He did very well to hack Simon Kjaer's header off the line on the hour mark, and made way for Callum Robinson five minutes later to warm applause. It's like he's never been away.
Callum O'Dowda - 5
Another frustratingly peripheral performance from O'Dowda. Started centrally but struggled to impose himself on the ball, and while he eagerly scrapped for knock-downs, he frequently found himself outmuscled. That said, he was by far the most creative of our midfield three, and injury dictated his non-appearance for the second half.
James McClean - 5
McClean played as a wing-back in the first half and the role does not suit him - it denudes his attacking influence and he often ends up playing as a traditional left-back. Moved into the midfield three to allow Stevens move to the left wing, but made little impact.
Jeff Hendrick - 5
In the Dictionary of Football Clichés, the definition beneath 'He Had Too Much Time To Think About It' will be a looped gif of Jeff Hendrick sauntering on goal in the fifth minute of this game. He did well to rob a dawdling Thomas Delaney of the ball as Harry Arter lay on the turf but somehow screwed his shot wide, prompting Jon Walters to joke that he had sportingly put the ball out of play. Hendrick played a very advanced role, the closest in support of Shane Long, but didn't make an impact. Fell deeper in the second-half but was anonymous again. Some day, Hendrick will deliver the performance the Euros augured.
Shane Long - 6
Once again found himself the target of countless long balls, and battled gamely. But it is little wonder he hasn't scored for Ireland in more than two years - here he spent the game facing Darren Randolph, leaping in the air and didn't have a shot. Trudged off with eight minutes left, exhausted.
Enda Stevens - 6
Given that Ireland started the game without a traditional left wing back and Stevens has been playing that role for high-flying Sheffield United, Stevens was slightly unfortunate not to start this game. Looked good on the ball, and almost slipped a delightful through-ball for Matt Doherty as Ireland pressed late on. Worth a start against the Welsh.
Callum Robinson - 8
Can a 67th minute substitute win the man of the match award? Robinson gambolled onto the field as support for Shane Long and lifted the Aviva as he did so. His actually made hay off a Shane Long knock-down, and beat a player in a one-on-one too. In the context of the Irish performance to then, he might as well have been Gareth Bale. Hugely impressive.
Aiden O'Brien - N/A
Made no impact.