Alan Browne makes strong case in Irish draw with Celtic

Celtic 2 Republic of Ireland XI 2: This was always going to be a day when the Brown name dominated Celtic Park yet a midfielder with a similarly sounding surname put his stamp on the occasion too.

Ireland’s Alan Browne not alone punctuated the raucous atmosphere at the Scott Brown Testimonial by curling in an early opener but also dominated for large spells in midfield against the stage’s hero and Patrick Roberts.

On the afternoon that Ireland boss Martin O’Neill and legendary striker Henrik Larsson returned to Paradise, Leigh Griffiths cancelled out Browne’s opener.

More goals were swapped in the second half, Callum O’Dowda regaining Ireland’s lead before Roberts signed off on his two-year loan spell by prodding in the equaliser.

Browne was one of only five players to survive a raft of substitutions in yesterday’s workout at Celtic Park and will feel he did enough to remain in the panel for the games, proper friendlies, against France this day next week and USA five days later.

At 23, he is at an ideal point of his career to push for a place in the side by the time of the 2020 European Championship qualifiers come around next March.

Although he’s got plenty of competition for a berth in the new-look team, including from fellow Cork man Conor Hourihane, all of the tests the former Cork City man has been confronted with have been negotiated with gusto.

Much of the Irish attention at Preston North End has understandably centred on Sean Maguire’s ascent but Browne ended a season which brought them close to the play-offs by receiving the Player of the Year accolade.

Despite agreeing a new long-term contract 12 months ago, their talisman is the subject of fresh interest from some of the Championship’s perennial promotion contenders along with a few sides in the Premier League.

O’Neill often floats the notion in jest that Peter Ridsdale is acting as Browne’s agent, such is the volume of praise he gushes about him, but the Preston advisor won’t be joking should a tempting offer be tabled.

Another strong showing on his third cap either in Paris or Dublin over the next 12 days is certain to keep him motoring towards the top-flight, be it at Preston or an alternative employer.

On what was ostensibly the start of a three-game showcase for the Uefa nations league campaign starting in September, Browne was more prominent than his midfield partner Shaun Williams.

The Millwall playmaker was one of three new faces in the team, not caps as this was deemed a test game, alongside Blackburn Rovers pair Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams.

Later on, just after O’Dowda has put Ireland 2-1 ahead, O’Neill introduced further rookies, Conor O’Malley, Graham Burke, and Callum Robinson amongst the five substitutes. Enda Stevens was also blooded as the seventh with 17 minutes remaining.

Burke became the first player to figure under O’Neill while still at a League of Ireland club. He had to squeeze in his cameo between two club games, the first of which at Sligo Rovers entailed him getting just six hours sleep before flying to Glasgow.

“Graham might well have started today only for his club match last night,” noted O’Neill. “He flew over this morning and only met his teammates in the dressing-room beforehand. That shows you he’s enthusiastic about it and certainly didn’t want to waste his opportunity.”

The Shamrock Rovers player did enough, despite some over-eagerness inside the box, to remain in the mix for the Paris trip.

O’Neill can’t bring them all, he was swift to remind people in his post-match musings, yet clearly there is a talent within the 24-year-old capable of being honed. Robinson, meanwhile, looks far more progressed towards being the finished article.

Deployed into the sole striker’s slot after the glut of substitutions, the Northampton attacker was lively.

Brushing up on his finishing may be on his to-do list, however, having spurned a late chance to win it by heading wide from close range.

He won’t be involved in the upcoming pair of matches as he awaits clearance on his switch from England to be rubberstamped by Fifa.

CELTIC:

De Vries (Doohan 46); Hendry, Simunovic, Mulgrew (Larsson 62), Miller (Tierney 77); Brown, (McGregor 88), Kouassi (R Hendry 46); Johnston, Roberts (Ntcham 72), Sinclair; Griffiths (Dembele 77).

IRELAND XI:

Doyle (O’Malley 59); Coleman, Lenihan (Stevens 73), Egan (Doherty 59), D Williams (Cunningham 59); Browne, S Williams (Robinson 59); O’Dowda, Maguire, McClean; Walters (Burke 59).



Lifestyle

7 of the most head-scratching crimes of fashion committed in 2018

Child’s love for Mary Poppins: UK children's Laureate breaks down the iconic nanny's reboot

Stepping out of the shade: Choose colour for this years festive partywear

More From The Irish Examiner