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It Sounds Ridiculous, But Should Robbie Brady Have Missed That Penalty?

It Sounds Ridiculous, But Should Robbie Brady Have Missed That Penalty?
By Donny Mahoney
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The first two minutes of Ireland vs France yesterday might be rememebered as the two greatest minutes of football Ireland ever played. With the ball from the kickoff, Ireland stroked the ball around the pitch, holding possession for two entire minutes before Daryl Murphy screwed up a golazo attempt and Shane Long was barreled over.

Robbie Brady - who had never missed a penalty in his entire career - faced a difficult decision. Score and give Ireland a vital lead that they'd have to defend for 88 minutes. Miss and leave Ireland with a psychic blow that they'd have 88 minutes to recover from.

Brady, of course, scored and Ireland lost. Despite a few marvellous passages of play where Ireland flirted with going up 2-0, the task of holding out against a partisan crowd, in the boiling heat, on three days rest, against a French team brimming with attacking talent proved too arduous. Ireland imploded spectaculary after Griezmann's first goal and within ten minutes were down a goal and a centreback. Recovery was impossible.

If there is an Irish blueprint for a victory against proper oppostion, we saw it Wednesday night in Lille. We saw a similar version of it against Germany, where Shane Long scored in the 69th minute. Compare that to the Trap years, where so often Ireland would score first but the opposition would grind us down before getting an equaliser.

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Irish teams defend heroically but not always well and our entire footballing philosophy is based on nullifying opposition and taking our chances. We are not gifted enough as a footballing nation to do nothing but repel a good team for essentially an entire game. Holding off decent opposition out is mentally draining. After we conceded one to Belgium, goals two and three were not long in coming.

Matches like Ireland vs Italy in 1994 prove that Ireland can defend a lead against a good team but that day we had Paul McGrath anchoring our defense. To expect the same from Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy is naive.

The statisticians will tell you your odds of winning a football match increase exponentionally when you score the first goal. And those moments of wild delirious hope during halftime, where France seemed flimsy and our midfield look magnificent, were intoxicating. But in many ways, defeat was sealed when Robbie Brady scored so early (though for what it's worth, Robbie Brady seems physically incapable of not scoring for Ireland if you can allow the double negative)

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What happens if that penalty bounces back off the bar? Would we be pondering a vastly different reality? It's very likely that Ireland never would have recovered from the mental shock of the wasted opportunity. But if 88 minutes felt like two months watching on TV, it must have felt like an eternity in hell for the Irish defense.

I guess we can only wonder.

 

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