The Mostly Disastrous History Of Ireland Scoring Early Under Martin O'Neill

The Mostly Disastrous History Of Ireland Scoring Early Under Martin O'Neill

Ireland's World Cup dreams have been crushed. Twenty-three mental minutes elapsed between Shane Duffy's headed goal in the 6th minute and Christensen's equaliser/Christie's own goal in the 29th minute. So much magical thinking was packed into a time frame roughly the length of a Seinfeld episode - dreams of camper van treks along the Russian steppe, of the gentry of St Petersberg waving their frilly knickers at us, of swims in vodka lakes.

And then the roof caved in, as it tends to do when Ireland score early.

If the script feels familiar, that's because it always is with Ireland. Our big away victories - in Vienna and Cardiff - have a template. Neutralise the opposition in the first half, absorb the pressure, score on the counter in the second half, hold on.

There is also a template for Ireland's disastrous results against good opposition. Under Martin O'Neill, against good teams, Ireland have displayed an uncanny ability for scoring within the first 10 minutes. But so often these early goals have been Ireland's undoing, as the pressure of defending for 80+ minutes pushes this passionate but terribly limited footballing side over the brink.

Because we don't aspire to any modest footballing virtues, like completing passes or holding possession, how can we expect to keep decent opposition off the scoresheet for 80 minutes or more? We never see Ireland seize upon the impetus of an early lead. Instead they crumble under the pressure.


Behold the painful history of Ireland scoring early under Martin O'Neill.

France 2-1 Ireland: Euro 2016

Ah Lyon in the sun when no one gave us a chance. Robbie Brady scored from the penalty spot after two minutes and then...holy hell, we had to defend for our lives against a team with Griezmann, Pogba, Payet etc. It remains one of the best performances of the O'Neill era, and there were there chances we didn't take to go up 2-0. Inevitably the levee broke, Griezmann scored twice in a four minute span and it was good night Irene.

I wrote at the the time that Robbie Brady should have missed that penalty intentionally, and I still stand by it. There was no chance of Ireland hanging on to beat France.

Serbia 2-2 Ireland: 2018 World Cup qualifier


Had Ireland heeded the lessons of Lyon? No! Jeff Hendrick scored in the third minute in the Belgrade swamps. Ireland were subsequently overrun in midfield, fell behind 2-1 before Big Daryl Murphy bailed us out late on.

Georgia  1-1 Ireland: 2018 World Cup qualifier

Proof that Ireland's early goal hoodoo is not restricted solely to decent opposition. When Shane Duffy scored from a third minute header, some fans were jubilant. Seasoned Ireland fans knew better. Georgia equalised before halftime and all in all, Ireland were outplayed. It was one of the more insipid Irish away performances of recent years.

Ireland 2-0 Moldova: 2018 World Cup qualifier


The exception that proves the rule. Big Daryl scored within the first ten minutes. Thankfully we managed to win this one.

Ireland 1-5 Denmark: 2018 World Cup qualifier

Textbook Ireland result against good opposition. Early set piece goal. Wild hope. Panic stations. To (mis)quote Jimmy McClean, we shat ourselves again.

Donny Mahoney

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