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One Of Last Night's Best Moments Came 10 Minutes Before The Goal

One Of Last Night's Best Moments Came 10 Minutes Before The Goal
By Mark Farrelly
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Sometimes, those of us who play sport at a recreational level can forget the connection between us and the top level professionals we watch on television. Yes, we can buckle under the mental pressure of being one-on-one with the goalkeeper in a game of 5-a-side or attempting to knock over a point in tight GAA match but for some reason, we downplay - maybe even ignore - the effect confidence can have on a top level athlete.

Hands up who has ever been chastised by one of their own with the phrase 'Would ye wake up!?' or 'You're asleep'! Yet, were you actually dithering at the time or were you lost in thought, perhaps dwelling on a recent mistake or worry about your performance? All too often a lapse in concentration due to self-analysis can look all too similar to the demeanor of a player not giving it his all.

I was as guilty as anyone of hanging James McCarthy out to dry after the Belgium game last Saturday. On the face of it, his performance stunk of someone who wasn't exemplifying the die-with-your-boots-on attitude we have come to expect from an Irish team. Eamon Dunphy described him as 'terrible flop' and few would have argued. At no point did I stop to think about everything this player has gone through to play for Ireland. The years of abuse he had to live through as a youngster when he remained steadfast in his promise to his Irish grandfather that he would line out for the nation of his ancestors.

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At no point did I stop to think, 'Wow here's a guy who has been through a difficult season. Here's a guy who needs an arm around his shoulder and to be reminded of the fact that he is a quality player.' Thankfully however, Martin O'Neill did take a moment to reflect. Not only did he refuse to acquiesce to the calls for McCarthy to be dropped, he doubled down on him. His decision to show faith in the Everton man and McCarthy's subsequent performance reminds us that we judge a man's character, not when he is sailing high, but when his back is against a wall.

In the 77th minute, McCarthy was replaced by Wes Hoolahan and for just a few seconds the camera remained on him as he made his way to the dugout. Those few seconds were enough for us to see true team spirit in its physical form. First, O'Neill made sure to hold onto McCarthy for extra long embrace. His teammates of coaches were equally impassioned in their applause, with Keane reaching out to give him an encouraging pat as well.

Every player will have their own demons but when you lift someone up rather than compound their own frustration, new heights can be reached. Seven minutes later Wes Hoolahan would miss a guilt-edged chance; a momentary buckle under the weight of expectation. However, in keeping with that same aforementioned spirit, he had the belief and bravery to come again, to produce something wonderful.

Hopefully we can stop to remember the attitude of this team and their management before we rush to tear down someone else in the future.

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Oh and by the way, here's Robbie Brady's goal again but mixed with that mental Icelandic commentary from their Austria match.

Watch: Bask In The Commentary From Around The World For That Brady Goal

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