Ireland ease to comeback victory on night of firsts against New Zealand

Ireland ease to comeback victory on night of firsts against New Zealand
Sean Maguire scores the second goal. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Republic of Ireland 3 - 1 New Zealand

So no fairytale debut goal for the Troy wonder but young Parrott did get to register an assist as Sean Maguire finally opened his international account with a memorable strike.

  

In fact, it was a night of firsts for all three of Ireland’s goal-scorers, Derrick Williams and Callum Robinson joining the ex-Cork City man in scoring their first goals for their country. Try talking to any of them about meaningless friendlies.

That said, and encouraging though this Irish performance was, there is, of course, a world of difference between a warmer-upper like this and the red-hot intensity which can be expected when the Irish and the Danes contest what will effectively be another big tournament play-off at this same venue on Monday.

Prior to kick-off against New Zealand, Mick McCarthy had strongly hinted that, with one or two potential exceptions, his starting line up for this game would not be required on Monday.

He had also indicated that, if he was seen to bring Robbie Brady ashore before the end of 90 minutes, it would make it more likely that the Burnley man would see action against the Danes. As things turned out, captain for the night Brady was still on the pitch at the final whistle, suggesting he’s someone McCarthy could turn to, rather than start with, when the Danes come back to town.

While, from the first whistle, all eyes were on Parrott - and the ones that matter most in the dugout paying, perhaps, even closer attention to how Brady fared - the Irish player who really caught the eye in the first half was Jack Byrne.

Troy Parrott in action against Michael Boxall of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Troy Parrott in action against Michael Boxall of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
 

Marking a quick return to the stadium where he had excelled against Dundalk as Shamrock Rovers ended their protracted FAI Cup drought, Byrne again looked at home in the wide-open spaces of the Aviva.

An early lofted ball to put Parrott in behind was trademark stuff from the Hoops' playmaker but a linesman’s flag was up well before Brady touched the striker’s lob to the net.

Josh Cullen also impressed with his industry and willingness to expand the play, as the green shirts enjoyed more than their accustomed share of the possession, the home side’s early confidence exemplified by Alan Browne’s electric turn to get away from his marker and set Derrick Williams up for a sight of goal - a chance which, in truth, the Blackburn defender should have made more of.

It might have been a friendly, with a pedestrian tempo to match, but Parrott’s nibble at Winston Reid’s calf drew an aggrieved response from the West Ham man who had been sidelined for so long through injury while, moments later, it was the turn of the sparse home attendance to be disgruntled as the ref ignored a penalty appeal when the Spurs starlet went down in the box under a challenge by Michael Boxall.

Lee O’Connor’s distribution from right-full was another encouraging feature of Ireland’s play, Sean Maguire profiting from one such ball to bear down on the New Zealand goal where Stefan Marinovic stood strong at his near post.

Lee O’Connor in action against Liberto Cacage, Elijah Just, and Joe Bell of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Lee O’Connor in action against Liberto Cacage, Elijah Just, and Joe Bell of New Zealand. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
   

At the other end, Williams’ timely intervention prevented New Zealand’s first attack from ending with a shot on goal before the Irish defence was found badly wanting in the 29th minute when, out of the blue, an incisive move ended with the unmarked Callum McCowatt sweeping Liberato Cacace’s low cross to the back of the net to give the visitors the lead against the run of play.

It was also a reminder that, for all Ireland’s smooth build-up play, they had yet to open up the New Zealand defence with anything like similar efficiency. They came close in the 38th minute when Maguire headed a Brady cross, clipped with his right foot, wide of the far post but, when they finally did achieve parity, almost on the stroke of half-time, it came in the most familiar of ways, as Brady reminded the faithful of his set-piece expertise with a beautifully delivered out-swinging corner from the left which Derrick Williams headed powerfully down and into the back of the net.

Derrick Williams celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with teammates Troy Parrott, left, and Kevin Long. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Derrick Williams celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with teammates Troy Parrott, left, and Kevin Long. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Kieran O’Hara had to make his first save of the game early in the second half, diving to bat away a deflected shot by Ryan Thomas, but the Irish quickly re-asserted themselves at the other end to take a deserved lead.

And what a beauty it was, Parrott turning provider to cleverly tee up Maguire whose rising shot to the top corner was hit with all the powerful intent of man desperate to break his international duck on what was his seventh appearance for his country.

Maguire sought to return the favour eight minutes later, after being put in the clear by Byrne but, with the Aviva ready to acclaim the debut goal it had been waiting for, the New Zealand ‘keeper got out quickly to smother Parrott’s effort.

The new kid on the block made way for Callum Robinson just past the hour mark, the former’s debut – positive if not spectacular – at an end. And in the 74th minute, the man who replaced him became the third Irish player on the night to score his first goal for his country, Robinson heading O’Connor’s picture-perfect cross to the back of the net.

Callum Robinson celebrates after scoring his side's third goal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Callum Robinson celebrates after scoring his side's third goal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
  

And after Mark Travers had done well to prevent what looked a certain second goal for the visitors late on, 3-1 was how it ended. A satisfying night’s work then but the final whistle had barely sounded when all thoughts began turning to what will be a very different scenario on Monday night.

Republic of Ireland: O’Hara (Travers 64); O’Connor, Long, Clark, Williams (O’Dowda 55), Cullen, Browne (Hourihane 64), Brady, Byrne (Judge 62), Maguire (Collins 73), Parrott (Robinson 62)

New Zeland: Marinovic, Reid, Cacace, Boxall (Smith 73), Bell, Wood (de Jong 73), Singh, McCowatt Collier 84), Thomas (McGlinchey 73), Roux (Payne 91), Just

Referee: Rob Jenkins (Wales)

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