Monday, November 16, 2015


A NATION HELD its breath again — and Jon Walters delivered, not once but twice.
Ireland are going to the European Championships in France next summer. The dream that once seemed like wishful thinking is now a reality.
Our reality.
The image of the big Stoke City striker, his arms flung wide in ecstasy after drilling a penalty past Asmir Begovic, will rightly go down as one of the iconic ones in Irish football history.
His first goal settled the nerves and convinced Ireland that not only was victory within their grasp, it was theirs to lose. His second, a level-headed finish from a Robbie Brady free on 70 minutes, rubber-stamped the passports.
Image result for jonathan waltersTo 1988 and 2012, we can now add 2016. A new generation of Joxer’s, their stories only half-written in Poland and Ukraine, will have a chance to finish what they started four years ago.
Walters made his mark where it matter the most, on the scoreboard, but this was a night littered with Irish heroes. Ciaran Clark was a defensive rock while Richard Keogh, going toe-to-toe with Edin Dzeko, was every bit as reliable alongside him.
Brady played with an authority far beyond his 23 years, and after a few false starts from set pieces, finally found the killer ball to break Bosnia’s stubborn challenge.
The sold-out Aviva Stadium crowd arrived needing no reminder of Ireland’s chequered play-off past. So near but yet so far, so many times.
But the new stadium is quickly becoming a fortress to resemble the old haunt on Lansdowne Road. Add another unforgettable night to the list.
Martin O’Neill has not lost a competitive game here as manager and, with the buzz of that historic night against Germany still ringing, the usual pessimism gave way to something resembling cautious optimism.
Friday night’s first leg proved that Bosnia were nothing to be feared and with Walters coming in for Stephen Ward as the only change, the starting XI reflected that.
O’Neill knew that sitting to protect the hard-earned away goal was a fool’s errand and Ireland took the game to their visitors, though the start was littered with mistakes on both sides.
It was a disciplined Irish performance, and while the chances may have been few and far between, the same held through for Mehmad Bazdarevic’s side.
The breakthrough came on 24 minutes, sprung from a moment of genuine creativity. From Seamus Coleman’s short throw-in, Wes Hoolahan flicked the ball back inside to Daryl Murphy who drove his way towards the Bosnian goal.
Ervin Zukanovic tried to twist his body into position as Murphy crossed, and although the ball struck the defender’s flailing arm and lost all of its zip, it’s hard to argue that it was deliberate.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers — the man who refereed the second leg against Estonia four years ago, and who might well be adopted as Ireland’s playoff mascot — barely hesitated before pointing to the spot. Bosnia protested as well they might and as the Aviva Stadium became a jittery mess, Walters remained the coolest man in the house.
He waited for Begovic to blink, the goalkeeper inching to his left, before drilling the ball into the opposite corner.
MARTIN O'NEILL & ROY KEANEBosnia arrived knowing that they needed at least one goal to have any chance of progressing, and they immediately set about their task with much more diligence. Within 60 seconds, Dzeko — who looked like he might indeed be carrying a knock — wriggled free of James McCarthy before crashing a shot into the side-netting. Randolph, who was never seriously troubled in that first half, had the danger covered.
Dzeko was involved again in the 34th minute to exploit a rare moment of confusion among the Irish back four. Neither Brady nor Clark challenged him in the air, allowing him to cushion a header to Hans Medunjanin, but the midfielder’s snapshot was always high and rising.
Miralem Pjanic, Roma’s lethal playmaker, dropped deeper and deeper in an attempt to influence proceedings and he nearly unlocked the Irish defence with a threaded through ball.
As in the first leg, Ireland’s left side was the most fruitful avenue for Bosnia’s attacks. Ognjen Vranjes and Edin Visca launched siege after siege but twice in quick succession, the rock-solid Clark intervened to clear before Randolph snuffed out another dangerous moment.
Ireland did have a chance to double their advantage before the break thanks to some brilliant link play by Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick but Begovic did well to snatch the ball off Murphy’s head.
It was a brief respite from a period of Bosnian dominance which continued into the second half, and not long after the restart, Clark was perfectly positioned once again to flick Medunjanin’s whipped free over the bar to safety.
With Bosnia taking an ominous stranglehold, Martin O’Neill acted decisively to make changes. James McClean came on to replace Hoolahan, a mirror image of the change that paid dividends in Zenica on Friday night, while Shane Long — playing his first football in more than a month — relieved Murphy at the head of the line.
Pjanic nearly found Bosnia’s equaliser with a clever training-ground routine on the hour mark, but there were too many bodies blocking his path to goal.
And on 70 minutes, Brady finally found his mark. His whipped delivery from the left had the Bosnian defence on the back foot and Vranjes could only get enough of a touch to loop the ball up into the air.
Watching it drop, Walters steadied himself at the back post and rattled a shot so precise that it kissed the inside of the woodwork before nestling in the back of Begovic’s net.
Bosnia’s siege never lifted but Randolph and his defenders always did enough to quell the danger.
Here’s a sentence you can read and read and read between now and next summer: Ireland are going to France.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


The Republic of Ireland maintained their hopes of a Euro 2016 spot after they drew with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-off first leg in Zenica.

The game appeared in severe danger of being abandoned after half-time when the pitch became shrouded in thick fog.

Robbie Brady Scores For Ireland In Bosnia
However the Republic looked to have snatched victory when Robbie Brady hit a precious away goal on 82 minutes.

But Edin Dzeko levelled three minutes later to leave the play-off in the balance going into Monday's second leg.

Republic manager Martin O'Neill will hope the possible return of Shane Long, Jon Walters and John O'Shea will give them impetus for the Dublin contest.

Southampton striker Long may be available again after injury while O'Neill may also welcome back the influential O'Shea and Walters after suspension.

With the Republic having scored the away goal, a 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium will be enough to secure the Irish a finals berth in France.

Frantic finish in the fog after early stalemate

Robbie Brady's goal looked set to earn the Republic a precious first-leg victory

Brady struggled for much of the contest as both he and Republic left-back Stephen Ward found Bosnia right-sided midfielder Edin Visca a handful.

The Norwich winger's goal came in his only piece of attacking play of note as he cut inside Toni Sunuci before beating Bosnia's Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic at his near post with a shot from 14 yards.

Brady's goal could hardly be seen from the stands such was the fog that had enveloped the Bilino Polje Stadium in Zenica.

At that stage, the Irish - after being second best for most of the contest - looked on course to be in firm control of the play-off going into the second leg.

However, the Republic's left-sided flank was once again exploited three minutes later as Ognjen Vranjes got in behind Ireland substitute James McClean before squaring for Roma star Dzeko to poke past Darren Randolph.

Slack defending by Stoke's Marc Wilson allowed a cross to find Edin Dzeko and the lethal striker duly found the net to leave the first leg at 1-1.

Heading into Monday's return match at The Aviva Stadium, Ireland have the precious away-goal and while that may yet prove to be decisive, don't rule out Bosnia-Herzegovina scoring in Dublin.

However, Martin O'Neill's Ireland do have enough abought them to  get though the play-off tie and qualify for next Summer's Euro Finals.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Alas, Ireland were left dwelling on another failed World Cup semi-final bid as their depleted ranks were ruthlessly put to the sword by a scintillating Argentina outfit at the Millennium Stadium.

One more win too big an ask with crocked leaders
Ireland's full-back Rob Kearney (C) is tackled by Argentina's centre Matias Moroni (L) and Argentina's wing Santiago Cordero (R)

None of us will know for sure how today would have transpired had Ireland been able to call on O’Connell, Sexton, O’Mahony, O’Brien and Payne, but the toll of their loss was undeniably evident.
There isn’t a team in the world that would not feel a similar mass decimation, notably after the crescendo to the Pool phase and in the face of an Argentina unit who were rampant, belligerent and refined in equal measure.
A dejected Ireland fan in the stands during the Rugby World Cup match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
A dejected Ireland fan in the stands during the Rugby World Cup match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

It may not come as any consolation to the Irish players as they ponder more underachievement on the global stage but, to a man, their bravery was awe-inspiring. And, in reality, even if Joe Schmidt had a full deck at his disposal the outcome may not have differed, though possibly a little closer. Because, maybe, maybe not, the last three games have shown- the disparity between the northern and southern hemispheres is only getting bigger.

Argentina's Juan Martin Hernandez celebrates after the referee awarded them a try
Reuters / Toby Melville

Ireland tellingly blown away in the opening quarter
Whether it was nerves, shell-shock or a physical hangover from the battle with France, but Ireland simply could not cope with the ferocious wave of Argentine pressure that swept them away in the early goings. The period proved decisive.

Conversely, Los Pumas, having rested a majority of their front liners for their final group game with Namibia, were brimming with brutish brio; their ball-carriers consistently broke the gain-line and they smashed all in sight at the breakdown, where Ireland conceded a glut of penalties (20 of their points would come from that source).
By the 12th minute Ireland were 14 points down, thanks to converted tries from Matias Moroni and Juan Imhoff.  Sanchez then sent over penalties in between Madigan getting Ireland off the mark, with the scoreboard reading an ominous 20-3 with just 22 minutes on the clock.

The Pumas opener, in particular, was a stunning example of their evolving offence. Fullback Tuculet fielded Sanchez’s Garryowen, and the South Americans swiftly went left to right through big carries, notably from flanker Pablo Matera, before Moroni cantered over in the corner.
The pair of tries sandwiched the ignominious sight of Argentina’s driving Ireland off their own ball in the game’s first scrum, which ultimately led to Imhoff’s score.

Fitzgerald try temporarily turns the tide

The scarcely believable injury hex that has blighted Ireland over the last week reared its head again as Tommy Bowe was carried off in just the 13th minute. As the Ulster man was being carted to the dressing room, Sanchez sent over a penalty to make it 17-0.
However, his replacement Luke Fitzgerald made a spectacular intervention 13 minutes later as went over for his fourth, but most important international try.

Murray retrieved a loose kick, Heaslip carried into contact before Ireland fluently put it through hands, and Henshaw stood up some defenders, allowing the Leinster man swiftly step in off his wing, then jet-heel through a horde of Pumas to dot down.
Madigan added the conversion, but missed a subsequent penalty, though Ireland went into the break with a far more palatable 10 points to make up.

Ireland harness momentum after the break before Argentina ruthlessly wrestles it back
Chris Henry won a pivotal penalty as Argentina came out of the blocks with similar haste at the restart. Jordi Murphy claimed the line-out resulting from Madigan’s subsequent kick to touch, but the flanker wasn’t finished.
Luke Fitzgerald’s searing brake cut the Argentine line to pieces and Murphy was on hand to take the wing’s pass and go over for his first international try. After Madigan’s conversion the deficit was reduced to three points with 45 minutes played.

Sanchez and Madigan then traded penalties, before the latter failed to draw level with another just before the hour.
The peerless Sanchez scored another penalty, before Tuculet’s fine try in the 68th minute , engineered by another seamless left to right move, proved the killer blow. The incredible Imhoff rubbed salt in the Ireland’s wounds as he slalomed past waning defenders to give his side an ultimately deserved 20 point lead.

Argentina’s wide game a sight to behold
It was no secret that the Pumas’ back three held a serious speed advantage over their counterparts in green, though perhaps not to the degree to which we saw today. However, they obviously targeted Ireland in this area. Every time Argentina put width on the ball they resembled a paler All Blacks.
Imhoff, Cordero and full back Tuculet were afforded the wonderfully selected passes of Hernandez and Sanchez while hitting full stride so they were almost perpetually making significant yardage.

Their acceleration, appreciation of space and compelling ambition typified a Pumas outfit that are unrecognisable since joining the Rugby Championship four years ago. They will take some beating from here, and you wouldn’t envy Australia come the semi-final, especially after winning so controversially to Scotland.
©Irish Independent

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Ireland claimed a heroic victory against France at the Rugby World Cup, meaning they will face the emerging Argentina in the quarter-finals next Sunday, avoiding the mighty All Blacks.
Rob Kearney scores v France

However the victory came at a price for Joe Schmidt’s side with Johnny Sexton suffering a groin injury while Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony left the pitch on stretchers and man of the match Sean O’Brien could face a possible citing.
It was a war of attrition in Cardiff but were able to match France at the breakdown and limited Les Bleus to just three penalties.
The Irish bench made a huge impact with Iain Henderson, Chris Henry and Ian Madigan making big contributions.
Ireland edged and tight first half before scoring two tries after the break when the game became more fragmented.
Ireland made a bright start working the ball through 10 phases but conceded a penalty for coming in at the side of a ruck.
France had the first chance to open the scoring when Ireland were guilty of playing the ball on the ground after five minutes but out half Freddie Michalak sliced his penalty wide.
Ireland had another lucky escape when full back Scott Spedding struck the upright with a penalty after Ireland had collapsed a scrum.
Ireland despite being under pressure for the opening period took the lead on 12 minutes with a Johnny Sexton penalty.
Spedding levelled the game with a penalty on 16 minutes after Sean O’Brien was penalised for holding on the ground.
Sexton restored Ireland’s lead two minutes later with his second penalty as Pascal Pape was caught offside at the bottom of a ruck.
The sides were level again after 22 minutes as Spedding landed a long range penalty.
Ireland lost Sexton to a rib injury on 25 minutes but his replacement Ian Madigan kicked a penalty a minute after coming on.
Sean O'Brien v France

Ireland wasted their first try scoring opportunity, Tommy Bowe picked a great line and cut open the French defence he passed to Keith and with an open try line the Munster centre dropped the ball.
Ireland led 9-6 at half time but lost captain O’Connell to a hamstring injury just before the interval.
Full back Rob Kearney got the game’s opening try on 50 minutes.
From an attacking scrum Bowe went close, Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip had drives close to the line before the ball was spun wide for Kearney to squeeze over but Madigan failed to convert.
Morgan Para kept France in touch with a penalty on 64 minutes.
Scrum half Conor Murray got Ireland’s second try on 72 minutes.
From a lineout the forwards carried the ball through 12 phases, Iain Henderson drove close to the line, Chris Henry carried it on before Rory Best launched himself at the line but was held up short, Muraay lifted the ball from the bottom of the ruck and touched the bottom of the post to score and Madigan’s conversion put Ireland 13 points in front.
Madigan sealed the victory with a penalty four minutes from the end.

A magnificent performance by Ireland.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Shane Long's 14th international goal handed the Republic of Ireland a priceless win over world champions Germany and blew the race for Euro 2016 qualification wide open.

Sky Bet
 Shane Long scores the winning goal v Germany

The Southampton striker came off the bench to thump a 70th-minute thunderbolt past the helpless Manuel Neuer to hand the Republic their biggest competitive victory since they defeated Holland in a World Cup play-off in 2001.

Ireland's success, coupled with Poland's 2-2 draw with Scotland, means that Martin O'Neill's men are guaranteed a top-three finish and a play-off place at worst, but they will head for Warsaw on Sunday knowing they could still top Group D.
It was a night for heroes at the Aviva Stadium as Martin O'Neill's depleted team stood firm in the face of a German onslaught and took their chance when it came in front of a delirious full house of 50,604.

O'Neill sprang something of a surprise when, with defenders Seamus Coleman and Ciaran Clark injured and midfielder Glenn Whelan suspended, he handed Burnley defender Stephen Ward a first cap since November last year with only a single Capital One Cup appearance to his name this season.

Richard Keogh, Cyrus Christie and, again to raised eyebrows, Daryl Murphy also got the nod against a Germany side featuring seven of the men who played in the World Cup final in Brazil last summer.

Predictably, Joachim Low's men dominated possession. Less predictably, they failed to do a great deal with it as Ireland keepers Shay Given and Darren Randolph, who replaced the injured 39-year-old two minutes before the break, did not have a single save of note to make.

For that, they were indebted to skipper John O'Shea, who blocked Ilkay Gundogan's 13th-minute shot over his own bar, and central defensive partner Richard Keogh who managed to prevent Mesut Ozil from reaching Matthias Ginter's cross two minutes later.

The visitors thought they had taken the lead when Thomas Muller drove the ball across the penalty area and inside the far post as Ozil tried to get there ahead of Given, although whether or not he got a touch was irrelevant as the offside flag halted German celebrations.

Ireland were able to muster little going forward in front of a boisterous home crowd well aware of Poland's early goal, with Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady - released back into midfield by Ward's inclusion - attempting to link with Murphy and Jonathan Walters.
However, they rode their luck as time ran down when Ozil met another Muller cross unmarked but steered his left-foot effort wide.
There was little let-up after the break as Germany pressed Ireland ever deeper, but once again, the Republic responded in dogged fashion.

They were almost undone 10 minutes after the restart when Marco Reus latched on to a long clearance and crossed for substitute Andre Schurrle, whose volley at full stretch flew high and wide.

The game was opening up, although at times dangerously so for O'Neill's side, although the home fans were off their seat with 64 minutes gone when Murphy blasted a long-range effort just wide of the upright after Hoolahan's initial shot had been blocked by Mats Hummels.

Long replaced Murphy almost immediately and the newcomer had only five minutes to wait for his big moment, running on to Randolph's clearance and hammering the ball past the stranded Neuer to raise the roof at the Aviva.

Hummels and Muller passed up glorious opportunities to level in quick succession and Jerome Boateng and Gundogan both forced Randolph into important - if routine - saves as time ran down, but Ireland were not to be denied.

The clocked ticked agonisingly through four minutes of stoppage time before referee Carlos Carballo's whistle sparked mass celebration on and off the pitch.

Poland's late equaliser means Ireland must defeat them on Sunday in Warsaw to automatically qualify for France 2016, but we are already in the play-off's at worst.

Monday, September 28, 2015



It was a case of job done for Ireland in north-west London today as they made light work of Romania’s challenge, seeing off their Pool D opponents 44-10 in front of a Rugby World Cup record 89,267 crowd at Wembley.
Joe Schmidt’s team racked up six tries, with Keith Earls (2), Tommy Bowe (2), Rob Kearney, who was later forced off injured, and Chris Henry all crossing the whitewash.
Ian Madigan slotted all of Ireland’s kicked points with an assured display from the out-half.
The Romanians gave their all, but were vastly the inferior side, and rarely threatened Ireland in offence.
They managed a penalty at goal in the early stages through Valentin Calafeteanu and eventually crashed over for a try from lock Ovidiu Tonita late on, which Florin Vlaicu converted.
Ireland were composed throughout and looked a very complete side. Much bigger challenges lie ahead for them in the coming weeks, but the brains trust will be more than than happy with this outing, as they prepare to clash with Italy at the Olympic Stadium next Sunday.
Ireland dominated possession early on as they crossed the field looking for a way to crack open the Romanian defence, but the minnows held firm for the opening ten minutes, with Madigan and Calafeteanu trading penalties to keep the scores level.
Ireland’s first moment of real genius came shortly after, with Earls bursting through the centre, before offloading to Richardt Strauss who in turn fed Simon Zebo out wide, who chipped ahead before rounding Adrian Apostol, to collect the ball before touching down.
It was sensational skill from the Munster man, but the effort was ruled out for a boot in touch as he collected the ball.
As a result, Ireland again looked to the boot of Madigan to push themselves ahead, with another penalty on goal from the No 10 just before the end of the first quarter.
Ireland were beginning to crank up the gears and a sweeping left to right move saw Ulster’s Bowe collect and finish past Ionut Botezatu in the tightest of spaces in the corner.
Madigan curled in from from the left touchline to add the extras.
There was no let up from Ireland as Zebo joined the line at outside centre to whip a pass out to Earls on the left, who burnt two defenders before dotting down over the whitewash.
Madigan failed to add the extra two as he pulled his effort to the left this time.
That was to be the last score of the half as Romania scrambled brilliantly in defence for the last ten minutes, mostly in their own 22, to repel Ireland, and get to the interval to regroup.
The halftime respite didn’t appear to have the required effect on the Romanians though, as Ireland picked up where they left off and pounded the Oaks’ 22.

Within minutes they had a third try. Earls got on the end of a lovely dinked grubber from Eoin Reddan in behind the defence to touch down for his second of the game, becoming Ireland’s joint all-time World Cup top try-scorer alongside Brian O’Driscoll on seven.
Madigan converted to push Ireland well clear at 25-3.
With just over half an hour to go, Schmidt then decided to freshen things up, bringing in Rob Kearney for Earls, with the former slotting in at fullback and Zebo moving to the wing.
Cian Healy’s afternoon fitness session came to end soon after as he made way for his Leinster colleague Jack McGrath; Healy had a relatively quiet afternoon, making one big carry in the loose and performing his loosehead duties according to script.
With no injuries incurred, and 54 minutes of game time under the belt, it was a very satisfactory outing for the Clontarf man.
The third quarter followed a repeated pattern of Ireland putting several phases together, before coughing up the ball in the red zone for Romania to clear, before Ireland surged forward again.
Paddy Jackson was introduced at out-half with 20 minutes left, with Madigan slotting in at 12, Darren Cave moving to second centre, and Payne being called ashore.
In the pack, the two Seans - Cronin and O’Brien - were also introduced for Strauss and Jamie Heaslip, as Schmidt sought to get some more go-forward ball for to claim a fourth try and bag the bonus point.
That strategy worked. Within minutes Ireland had won a scrum deep in the Romania half, spread wide right off first phase and Bowe crossed for his second of the day.
Madigan, looking assured from the boot all day, added the conversion. Csaba Gal’s sin binning, for taking out Jackson in the air moments earlier, helping Ireland to dominate and really put the game to bed.
It was a case of whatever you can do, I can do better, for the wingers, with Earls and Bowe, both on two tries for the day, and both delivering very accomplished performances.
Things were only to get worse for Romania as Kearney claimed the third Rugby World Cup try of his career, as Cave, Madigan and Zebo interchanged wide left before the fullback finished off the intricate move. It was more of the same for Madigan as Ireland moved to a commanding 37-3 scoreline.
Tadhg Furlong, Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray were also introduced in the final quarter as Ireland emptied the bench.
And the Irish pack then got the chance to flex their attacking muscles, with Henry touching down off the back off an Ireland maul from a lineout.
It was just reward for a superb display from the Ulster flanker, who created go-forward ball all day as well as providing key link play at the breakdown. Madigan held on to place-kicking duties, despite Jackson’s prescence on the pitch, and slotted another for 44-3.
But Romania, having huffed and puffed with little joy for the almost entirety of the match, finally got the try that their pack deserved. Off the back of a lineout Tonita got his paws on the ball and smashed through a poor tackle by Jackson to crash over under the sticks. Vlaicu converted to diminish the damage.
Ireland had one more go at the line, but Bowe was penalised for holding on as he opted to go it alone in the 22 rather than using the support outside him.
Five points for Schmidt’s team from this one. Top of the pool after two matches. So far, so good, for the Six Nations champions.
Man of the match: Keith Earls.


Sunday, September 20, 2015



Ireland played the role of lean, green machine for 40 minutes and finished with enough of a flourish to put up an impressive total on the scoreboard as they beat Canada 50-7 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in their opening Rugby World Cup Pool D clash.
Tries by Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson, Jonathan Sexton, Dave Kearney, Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney and Jared Payne and eight successful kicks at goal saw Ireland rack up a half-century of points.
Canada deservedly got a try of their own, through star winger DT Van Der Merwe, having improved throughout the match.
Canada actually had the first chance of the match but scrum-half Gordon McCrorie missed a penalty from long range.
Ireland’s class then began to show soon enough, a powerful carry by flanker O’Brien and a Sexton kick to touch on the bounce in the corner, putting them on the front foot.
Irish pressure resulted in a penalty being awarded to them yards from the Canadian line. Captain O’Connell sensibly pointed towards the posts and Sexton knocked the kick over to set the scoreboard in motion.
That momentum was maintained and Ireland were soon back in the Canadian 22.
The balance then shifted decisively for ten minutes when Canadian captain Jamie Cudmore, the pantomime villain for the day, was then sent to the line for playing the ball on the ground from an offside position. Immediately after, a lineout maul resulted in O’Brien getting Ireland’s first try of RWC 2015.
The backline almost produced Ireland’s next five-pointer, a smart move which saw Rob Kearney taking the ball at first receiver and Conor Murray looping around his centres to give Keith Earls a bit of room. That move was held up just short, but a strong Irish scrum followed and Henderson was able to barge over with relative ease soon after.
A superb kick to touch ‘against the grain’ by Sexton put Canada back within yards of their own line within minutes.
This time, Sexton himself took advantage, a smart exchange of passes between himself and O’Brien in midfield putting him clear and he had just enough pace to beat the cover and dive over in the corner. The Leinster man had landed his first two shots but the touchline conversion proved beyond him this time.
Cudmore returned at that point with Canada having conceded 19 points in his absence.
The pick of Ireland’s tries came next. The ball was moved smartly from one wing to the other and back again, and with Ireland holding their depth and timing their passes well, Dave Kearney was able to zip in untouched with two men outside him. Sexton converted again.
Canada finished the half with a bit of a flourish as out-half Nathan Hiaryama began to exert a measure of influence from out-half. South African-born winger DTH Van Der Merwe did eventually cross the whitewash but play was called back for Hirayama’s tipped pass going forward and the try was cancelled.

It had been a near-perfect 40 minutes to start Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign but Ireland were unable to sustain the momentum early in the second half.
Canada were given a huge boost when O’Connell was shown a yellow for offside and the game then meandered along then for a period, albeit with Canada looking increasingly more dangerous when moving the ball wide.
Ireland gradually ground them down though, showing a touch of class here and there as they did so. A lovely break by Luke Fitzgerald, slicing past two tacklers, brought Ireland within five of the line again only for Rory Best to be shoved into touch a couple of feet from the line a few plays later.
Henderson stole the lineout only for Earls to fluff his lines, dropping a simple ball with a huge overlap to his right.
With 55 minutes gone, Sexton was replaced by Ian Madigan and a brand new front-row consisting of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Nathan White soon followed him into the fray with Chris Henry and Eoin Reddan not far behind.
Cian Healy made his long awaited return to action
But Canada continued to have the better of it and Van Der Merwe crossed the line for a second time only for play to be brought back for offside – correctly in this case.
Normal service resumed for most of the remainder of the half. Ireland got their first try of the period when a powerful driving maul gave Payne a chance to run hard at the Canadian defence inside the 22. He was just stopped short but Cronin was on hand to cover the last yard and score under the posts, and Madigan was able to convert.
Payne was badly caught out in the next play, his poorly conceived chip going straight into the arms of Van Der Merwe, who had the gas to beat the cover and score out wide. Hirayama was able to convert to give Canada a well-deserved seven points.
Canada threatened again as the clock wound on, pinning Ireland inside their own 22, but a quick breakout attack reached Earls and he was able to stretch clear of most of the cover, draw the rest and release a lovely pass inside to Rob Kearney for Ireland’s sixth.
Madigan created the seventh, ripping through a narrow gap in midfield and releasing Payne who took a nice line and cantered over, again under the posts. Madigan converted to bring up Ireland’s half-century.
Overall, a solid performance with key men like O’Connell, O’Brien and Sexton showing signs that they are coming to the boil. However, the period after half-time, and the concession of a try and several other chances which Canada were unable to take, will give Schmidt and co plenty to work over the next couple of weeks.
©Rte Sport

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Republic of Ireland 1 Georgia 0 

Martin O’Neill’s side did just about enough here to sustain their hopes of a place at next summer’s European Championships although the cream of the continent’s game may look at the game and feel that Ireland’s performance makes a pretty poor case for having expanded the tournament.
Jon Walters wins it for Ireland
The goal that won it, to be fair, was a little bit special with Jeff Hendrick doing extraordinarily well to tee up Jon Walters for his seventh international goal and there might well have been another with Shane Long passing up a good chance before James McClean forced a fine save but it mattered little really. But for extended stretches, predominantly in the first half, the home side again looked average.
Ultimately, the points were secured and thanks to the result in Glasgow, a win in Warsaw will now be enough to guarantee Ireland a play-off spot with favourable results before having the potential to make that trip to Poland even more rewarding.
 How much confidence this would generate that Ireland can raise their game against the Germans or Poles, though, is open to question.
For this, a game that simply had to be won, O’Neill made just one change to the side that started in Gibraltar, bringing back Seamus Coleman for Cyrus Christie, but by half-time he was looking to freshen it up further with Long on for Robbie Keane when a couple of others might have considered themselves fortunate to get a second chance.
The half had been another of those when Irish supporters must have been tempted to give up hope that their side might ever completely dominate a game against supposedly weaker opponents. The locals played in fits and starts but were matched for possession and passing by a Georgia side whose brightest attacking midfielders, Valeri Kazaishvili and Tornike Okriashvili, ran at defenders with at least as much purpose as any of their Irish counterparts could muster.
Levan Mchedlidze was about their brightest star against Scotland but he will not want to remember the way he scuffed his shot when clear through on Shay Given early on, although the most that was actually required of the goalkeeper was a quick bit of footwork and a cool pass under pressure after he initially lost control of a straight-forward back pass.
The shot wasn’t Georgia’s only chance; Okriashvili, in particular, showed a capacity to cause the Irish central defenders problems, but it was to prove their best and it would have interesting to see how the home side might have coped with having to come from behind.
As it was, their concern remained taking the lead and they made terribly heavy weather of that. Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady both tended to be involved in Ireland’s better moves and each had a hand in the neat build-up to a chance that Keane fired over after chesting down just seven minutes in. But it was another half an hour before somebody produced a shot that seriously tested Nukri Revishvili, with Coleman taking a touch to control a partially cleared Hoolahan cross before letting fly at the top right corner.
There was one particularly impressive spell around then when Glenn Whelan seemed to take it upon himself to start driving the team forward through the middle but it didn’t last. When briefly the visitors struggled hopelessly to clear the ball from their own area it seemed to suggest a potentially fatal weakness that would cost them later, the problem being that the clumsy efforts of the Irish to punish them as the ball bobbled around, prompted much the same thought about the hosts.
In the end, having fallen back far too often on long balls thumped in the direction of Walters when nothing else worked, Ireland went in for the break level, which was certainly as much as they deserved.
The improvement after it eventually led to the goal and while the improvement was not dramatic or immediate,there was a sense that Ireland had now acquired some urgency and were using it to build some momentum. A latecomer would, at least, have guessed at this stage which side was at home and hoping to go to the European Championships.
There was a downside. Both Whelan and s McClean picked up pointless bookings that will keep them out of the Germany game but at least the Georgians started to look like they were feeling the heat.
Still it took a moment of individual brilliance to create a goal that had more than a hint of Ireland’s in Gelsenkirchen about it. Hendrick, as he had done that night, produced a moment of magic to, on this occasion, weave his way past three defenders before squaring the ball for Walters who got between two players to turn it home from a yard or two out.
Long really should have made it two eight minutes later when Whelan passed up the opportunity to run on and shoot, preferring instead to lay the ball off to McClean who did well with his cross, but the striker tried to flick home and missed the ball completely. McClean then struck a fierce shot that Revishvili saved well.
The Irish started to cruise, a dangerous game in the circumstances against a team that was better than we had hoped, but their cause was helped by a hamstring injury to Mchedlidze that forced the striker off after the Kakhaber Tskaridze has used all his substitutions.
The final minutes slipped by until Ireland had, once again, done what they needed to but, as ever, not in the way they had hoped.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Stoke City); Coleman (Everton), O’Shea (Sunderland), Clark (Aston Villa), Brady (Norwich City); McCarthy (Everton), Whelan (Stoke City), Hoolahan (Norwich City), Hendrick (Derby County); Walters (Stoke City), Keane (LA Galaxy).
Subs: Long (Southampton) for Keane (half-time), McClean (West Brom) for Hoolahan (75 mins).

GEORGIA: Revishvili; Lobjanidze, Kvirkvelia, Amisulashvili, Khizanishvili; Kashia, Kankava; Kazaishvili, Okriashvili, Navalovsky; Mchedlidze.
Subs: Papunashvili for Kazaishvili (64 mins), Tsintsadze for Kashia (76 mins), Kenia for Khizanishvili (81 mins).

Referee: István Vad (Hungary).

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Gibraltar 0-4 Republic of Ireland
A double from captain Robbie Keane and goals from Cyrus Christie and Shane Long helped Ireland to a workmanlike 4-0 win over Gibraltar in Faro to lift Martin O’Neill’s side to third place in Group D in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Christie’s wonderful solo strike gave the Boys in Green a 1-0 half-time advantage that accurately reflected a lack of penetration despite overwhelming dominance of possession.
Ageless Robbie Keane does it again

A two-goal blitz from Keane, a tap-in and penalty, shortly after half-time put the result firmly beyond doubt, but Ireland rarely found the rhythm they exuded when hammering the Iberian minnows 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium last October, until substitute Long’s late header made it four.
Scotland’s shock 1-0 defeat in Georgia earlier in the night would have helped to concentrate Ireland’s mind on the task at hand, with third place in the group up for grabs.
They started brightly, in front of 5,393 at Gibraltar’s ‘home’ venue, with Wes Hoolahan playing his customary conductor’s role and combining well with Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady down the left.
Brady had a free-kick tipped over by Gibraltar goalkeeper Jordan Perez after seven minutes before Ciaran Clark rattled the crossbar with an unmarked header from a corner in the tenth minute.
Ireland did have the ball in the net two minutes later as Walters swept Keane’s clever, dinked cross home with a diving header but the Stoke man, who was uncharacteristically ineffective throughout the opening period, had strayed offside.
Captain Keane hit the side-netting after a lovely through ball from Hoolahan but Ireland were starting to look one-dimensional, with midfield very congested and no support for Christie down the right flank.
In the 27th minute, Derby defender Christie produced a bit of magic, however, cutting in from the touchline to beat two defenders and curl the ball into the far corner of the net with the outside of his right foot.
Walters immediately went close from long-range but the floodgates failed to open and Gibraltar even went close to an equaliser ten minutes before the break, former Portsmouth midfielder Paul Walker forcing Shay Given into a diving save.
Despite forcing a succession of corners, eight in the first half altogether, Ireland were forced to settle for a one-nil lead at the break but the game changed dramatically after the restart as Keane scored twice in two minutes.
from Brady to prevent Anthony Bardon from getting the underdogs on the scoresheet.
O’Neill introduced Stephen Quinn, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady for Keane, McCarthy and Hoolahan in a bid to refresh Ireland’s flagging momentum, and Southampton striker Long quickly made his mark on the game.
In the 79th minute, the excellent Christie combined well with clubmate Hendrick, who put a perfect chipped cross onto the penalty spot for Long to head past Perez.
McGeady shot wide wastefully when Long was free outside him and Walters scuffed a golden chance wide but Ireland finished out the game out comfortably for a 4-0 win.
Not exactly vintage football from O’Neill’s men but a satisfying result on a night when qualification for France 2016 suddenly seems much less far-fetched.
Gibraltar: Jordan Perez, Jean Carlos Garcia, Erin Barnett, Roy Chipolina (c), Joseph Chipolina, John Sergeant (85), Liam Walker, Anthony Bardon, Kyle Casciaro (Jake Gosling 61), Lee Casciaro, John Paul Duarte (Michael Yome 74).
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given, Cyrus Christie, John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Robbie Brady, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy (Stephen Quinn 70), Jeff Hendrick,  Jon Walters, Wes Hoolahan (Aiden McGeady 77), Robbie Keane (c) (Shane Long 70).

Monday, August 24, 2015


Tipperary 3-16 Galway 0-26

Shane Moloney crowned an incredible debut for Galway with an injury-time match winning point as the Tribesmen returned to the All-Ireland hurling final in quite incredible fashion.
The substitute was only on the field a matter of moments when he was wonderfully picked out by a long Joe Canning pass and split the posts for the game breaking score.
The strike brought to an end a remarkable game that saw Tipperary's Seamus Callanan finish with 3-9 on his own.
Tipp also brought on Noel McGrath for his first action since April following testicular cancer surgery and the talented attacker contributed an important point.
But Maloney was the man on everyone's lips in the 58,495 strong crowd as he punched the air in delight after setting up a September 6 final showdown with Kilkenny. That'll be a repeat of the 2012 finals and also of this year's Leinster decider which the Cats won with a workmanlike display
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham did insist after that provincial final loss that his team would meet Kilkenny again in the final and he's proven to be as good as his word.
Galway are still searching for a MacCarthy Cup breakthrough though and will be praying that this isn't the height of their achievement this season as they chase a first title since 1988.
They got off to a terrible start when Callanan sniped 1-1 inside the opening four minutes to leave Tipp purring in front of the appreciative crowd.
Callanan buzzed with intent throughout the half and finished it with 1-5 though Galway regrouped after that slow start and actually moved clear by the break.
Canning helped himself to a half dozen first-half points while Cathal Mannion, David Burke and rising star Conor Whelan found the target too to move the westerners 0-13 to 1-9 up at the break.

It was impossible to say who would prevail though due to the sheer quality of the ebb and flow contest. Canning added another piece of genius to proceedings early in the second-half with a point from a side line cut.
It appeared goals would prove Tipp's battering ram to success though. Callanan got a second in the 40th minute and added a third 13 minutes later with a clever low finish beneath the goalkeeper.
That put Tipp two clear but Galway responded with four points in a row from Canning, 2, Whelan and Jason Flynn. It summed up a tit-for-tat thrilling tie.
Tipp will ultimately rue a penalty effort from Callanan that was tipped over while sub Lar Corbett drew another great save from Colm Callanan.
It looked like parity might be the winner late on as the sides went deep into injury-time without anyone taking the lead. But right at the death Canning found Maloney with a great diagonal pass, leaving the debutant to slip away from Cathal Barrett and fire the winner.

The win and the manner of it gives Galway a great chance of victory in the Final against Kilkenny on Sunday, 6th of September.

Friday, June 5, 2015


John Delaney accepted FIFA payment
FAI chief executive John Delaney today confirmed that the Association received financial compensation from FIFA following the infamous handball in 2009. FIFA claims that lump sum was to be reimbursed if Ireland had qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ireland were deprived a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after losing to France in a two-legged play-off. Giovanni Trapattoni's side were level at 1-1 in Paris and heading for a penalty shoot-out when Henry's illegal intervention allowed William Gallas score the winner and break Irish hearts.
"We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup hadn't worked out for us with the Henry handball," Delaney told The Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio One today.

"Also the way Blatter behaved if you remember on stage when he had a snigger and a laugh at us.
"That day when I went into him and told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used, we came to an agreement."

Delaney says the agreement was a significant boost to the FAI.
Significant financial boost or not, questions are now being asked as to the ethics of the deal at a time when FIFA is in meltdown over many issues.


Saturday, March 21, 2015


Italy 20-61 Wales
Scotland 10-40 Ireland
England 55-35 France

Ireland have won the 2015 Six Nations after one of the most dramatic final days in the history of the competition.
An afternoon of high drama ebbed and flowed across the three staggered kicks-offs, beginning in Rome and sweeping to Edinburgh before a gloriously chaotic climax at Twickenham.

Wales started the day with a 41 point victory over Italy and set the scene for the games to come. They were 21 points behind Ireland as the day began - 25 behind England - but they surged to a record win over the Italians in what was breathless stuff at Stadio Olimpico.

That put the challenge to Ireland, who knew that a big score was required against Scotland if they were to have a chance. And they came out fighting at Murrayfield. 
Captain Paul O'Connell set the tone with a try inside five minutes. Three more tries would follow - two for Sean O'Brien and another for Jared Payne.
The eventual 10-40 victory eliminated Welsh hopes of a title and gave England a daunting 26 point target to reach.

Yet the destination of the trophy was still in the balance right down to the final seconds at Twickenham. An evening of mayhem in London saw England and France trade 12 tries, seven of those for the home side.

As the clock ticked down, England frantically pushed for the score that would give them the title. A scrum penalty against France cranked up the tension to unbearable proportions, but a final drive was penalised inches short of the line and Ireland were champions.

Paul O’Connell’s team began the game at Murrayfield knowing they would need to win by 21 points to catch Wales, who had hammered Italy early in the afternoon, while they also had to set a target for England.

Few gave Ireland much chance of achieving the feat. They had scored only four tries scored in the preceding four championship matches, while Scotland had shown themselves to be obdurate opponents under Vern Cotter.

But tries from O’Connell, Sean O’Brien (2) Jared Payne powered Ireland to victory and at the end, it appeared that they had done enough to claim outright back-to-back titles for the first time since 1948/9.

As with last week against the Welsh, there were errors aplenty, particularly at kick-off time and when Ireland were attempting to exit their own territory. But there was a huge lift as well. Ireland had direction and attacking ambition behind the scrum, dominated the contact zone and backed their creativity at key moments.
They set about their task with relish, O’Connell himself crossing the line from a few yards after just four minutes to get the chase off to a dream start.

Jonathan Sexton’s conversion and a penalty soon put Ireland 10 clear and meant the gap to Wales was reduced to just 11.
But Scotland had turned up to play. Finn Russell punished Rory Best’s unwise turnover attempt with a successful penalty to remind all present that this would be a contest.
The Irish hooker would make up for his mistake with two key turnovers before the half was out, while Luke Fitzgerald set the benchmark in the backline, making a series of superb tackles and attacking with verve down the left wing.
In total contrast to Cardiff, Ireland were making the big plays and winning the key battles all over the field.

They also had a few trademark smart plays in the locker. Sean O’Brien was the first to benefit, the wing-forward galloping over after a clever piece of deception at the lineout saw Blair Cowan hoodwinked. Sexton again converted to make it 17-3.

O’Brien’s powerful burst through the middle of two Scottish tackles a few minutes later emphasised Ireland’s dominance in contact though in the end, it amounted to nothing.
Instead, Scotland came back into it with Finn Russell dotting down and converting his own try after Stuart Hogg’s break into Irish territory. That pair, and the impressive centre Mark Bennett, would prove a handful for the rest of the day.

The nerves were back, and the gap down to seven again.
Like Fitzgerald rewarded Joe Schmidt’s decision to give him the start. An all action spell either side of half-time saw him win a penalty, which Sexton kicked, boss the scrums and put a series of trademark defensive hits before his afternoon came to an end after a hugely effective 52 minutes.

Scotland began to tire and Ireland were able to skip clear.
Sexton added two more penalties before feeding Jared Payne on a superbly angled run through the heart of the Scottish defence and over the try line for Ireland’s third. Sexton converted and Ireland were 20 clear, just one shy of the benchmark set in Rome.
Peter O’Mahony became Scotland’s tormentor in chief for a key period, rampaging down the tramlines and taking the catch of the day and it seemed like Ireland were champions in waiting in all but name.

But there was more drama to come as Sexton missed two relatively simple kicks at goal while Tommy Bowe was stopped by a Scottish fingernail as he raced towards the tryline. When his desperate flipped pass infield fell into Scottish hands it looked as though Ireland might have stalled.
But Irish pressure yielded a third penalty for Sexton and this time he made no mistake. The out-half was replaced because of cramp soon after, but not before a smart chip and chase down the line ended a rare spell of good play from Scotland.

Ireland kicked on with O’Brien crossing again after another period of relentless Irish pressure near the Scottish line. The accuracy and composure of his finish, a step, bump and reach over the tryline, in stark contrast to the poor finishing that bedevilled Ireland in Cardiff. Ian Madigan, who had entered the fray in place of Sexton, knocked over the conversion to extend the gap out to 30.

There was more drama to come - as Scotland mounted a final assault and when Hogg crossed in the corner it looked like Ireland’s record-equalling margin of victory would be reduced. But replays showed that the full-back had knocked forward under pressure from Jamie Heaslip, and Ireland’s margin was preserved.

Madigan missed a final penalty chance, but the feeling at the final whistle, as all eyes turned anxiously toward London, was that Ireland had done enough and as it amazingly transpired, they had, just.
(c)RTE Sport

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Wales 23-16 Ireland

Ireland’s Grand Slam dream was shattered in Wales in a case of so near yet so very, very far.
Image result for PAUL O CONNELL
On this occasion, Wales did so in some style, making 228 tackles in an immense defensive effort and generally playing the more charismatic and inventive rugby when it counted.
Their seven-point margin victory consisted of just one try, Scott Williams crossing with some ease midway through the second half, combined with five Leigh Halfpenny penalties and a superbly struck Dan Biggar drop-goal at the end of the first.
In reply, Ireland mustered a converted penalty-try and three Jonathan Sexton penalties. But it is the number of opportunities that were squandered that will dominate the post-match discussion.
The moment when Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe, with the line at their mercy on the wing, were left waving their arms in desperation as those around the ball attempted to shove their way over will live long in the memory.
Ireland’s fall back to earth began inside the first minute, a handling error at kick-off giving Leigh Halfpenny the first of four early penalty chances, all of which were drilled over with authority by the diminutive Welsh full-back.
Wales were also dominating the kicking battle with Halfpenny taking the first of many high balls to set the tone and acrobatically diving to field Sexton’s early attempt at a raking touch-finder. It was the beginning of a frustrating, error-ridden day for the Irish out-half.
Wales also had the edge in the wide channels, Jonathan Davies dismissal via a hand-off of Sexton symbolising their dominance.
After conceding 12 points in 12 minutes there was finally some respite for Ireland. First, the unfortunate Samson Lee was forced off with a leg injury after a collapsed scrum, giving Ireland much-needed breathing space.
Wales made errors in the aftermath, though Sexton was unable to punish the first pushing an effort to the left and wide after a penalty for not rolling away. A high-tackle on Tommy Bowe gave him a second chance seconds later and he made no mistake on that occasion.
Ireland then had their first attack of substance, working through phase after phase and earning a penalty that Paul O’Connell opted to kick to touch from a wide position that was within Sexton’s range. On what would prove a dreadful day for the hitherto superb Irish lineout, the gamble would fail when Rory Best’s delivery was under-thrown to Man of the Match Sam Warburton.
Warburton was yellow-carded soon after as Wales played as close to the edge of referee Wayne Barnes’ tolerance as possible at the breakdown.
Sexton made it 12-6 from the resultant penalty but Wales had a final moment of excellence in them to round out the half, Biggar kicking superbly to make it a nine-point gap after 40 minutes.
The first half had been hugely interesting; the second was utterly compelling.
It began with a superb line-break from O’Connell, his second on a day when he was one of relatively few Irish players to perform to their ability.
An immense sequence followed, with Wales resisting through over 50 phases of incredible intensity that saw Bowe get closest to the line until, after Ireland opted to kick for the corner rather than take the points, Sexton was eventually penalised for going off his feet and Wales were able to escape the red zone.

Minutes later, they had a chance of their own and while Ireland were let off once when Biggar’s pass looped into touch, another line-out failure gave Wales a second bite of the cherry. Where Ireland had laboured close to the gain-line, Wales had the courage to stand their back line deeper and in the end, that meant Scott Williams had a simple enough job of racing over for the game’s first try.
Halfpenny missed with the conversion but Wales had gained a crucial advantage.
Could Ireland chase a game? Eoin Reddan came on at the head of a battalion of subs and set about trying to do just that.
It got Ireland within a yard of the line with men to spare but they chose to attempt to bludgeon their way over and, ultimately, coughed up the ball.
With the clock very much against them, Ireland finally got the seven-pointer they needed when the Welsh maul defence was overwhelmed out near the touchline.
Pushed deep into their own half and unable to gain territory, Irish errors always looked likely to end the comeback and in the end that proved the case when Cian Healy was penalised for holding on near halfway. Halfpenny knocked that kick over to make the gap seven points
There was still time for Ireland to scramble a draw and once again they were able to stretch Wales, before Davies was sin-binned for slapping the ball down to end a dangerous attack. But a final successful defence against the Irish lineout maul and a confusing scrum that Ireland appeared to have won but were eventually penalised over saw the clock run out.
Ireland may carp about aspects of the refereeing and will also wonder what might have been if their start had been even slightly better.
In the end though, as has so often been the case in this compelling rivalry, the underdog had thoroughly and convincingly shown the other side to have feet of clay.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Jarvis for Lee (12), Evans for Jenkins (40), Hibbard for Baldwin (56), Williams for Roberts (59), Phillips for Webb (68), Tipuric for Lydiate (68), Ball for Wyn Jones (71), Baldwin for Hibbard (78).
Sin bin: Warburton (27), Davies (77).
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Healy for McGrath (56), Reddan for Murray (62), Cronin for Best (62), Moore for Ross (62), Henderson for Toner (62), Murphy for Heaslip (71), Madigan for Sexton (74).
(c)RTE Sport