Concern for the welfare of their stricken captain Seamus Coleman rather than the road to Russia was the overriding emotion of Ireland’s players after their scoreless draw against Wales.
David Meyler, a long-time friend of the Everton man from their days with Ireland’s U21s, cast a disconsolate figure at Lansdowne Road when reflecting on an incident which is set to end Coleman’s season.
“We are all devastated for Seamus and it is heartbreaking,” explained the Hull City man, who suffered two serious knee injuries during his early days at Sunderland.
“The poor fellow, he has had a bad injury and we are all thinking of him and his family. I am sure he is gutted.
“It is nothing like my own injuries. Seamus is the captain of the team, he is vital to us, a big personality around the changing room and we are all thinking about him.”
John O’Shea, who took over as skipper in Coleman’s absence after the full-back was taken off by stretcher, echoed Meyler’s sentiments and insisted he will recover from the set-back.
“I know Seamus will come back bigger and stronger because he has a fantastic attitude,” said the defender.
Neil Taylor might not have been the only player sent-off by referee Niccola Rizzoli, with Gareth Bale lucky to avoid a red card for a couple of fouls. His late challenge on O’Shea only resulted in a yellow card and the Italian kept the card in his pocket when the Real Madrid talisman charged into James McClean.
“He caught him high,” noted Shane Long about Bale’s lunge on O’Shea. “But I thought that was honest as well because he was trying to score a goal. Afterwards he kicked James McClean in the chest but I don’t think there was any malice in it.
“I thought the referee did okay tonight, he let the game flow and tried to keep it fair for both sides.
At the midway point of the campaign, Ireland sit joint-top of Group D with Serbia and in with a great chance of negotiating a route to next year’s World Cup. Whether Ireland rue failing to capitalise on their numerical superiority by slaying the Welsh dragon on home soil probably won’t be known till the nations resume combat in the final game in October.
“Three points would have been brilliant because it would have really opened up a gap there ahead of Wales,” admitted Long.
“However, Wales are great side, they’ve got some good players and are a threat every time they got the ball.
“A point isn’t a bad result but once they went down to 10 men, everyone would have looked for the three points then. We’ll take it and move on, it’s not a bad start to the group.”
James McClean, at the end of a difficult week personally, conceded Ireland will take the point as a positive in the context of how the game unravelled.
“I thought Wales were better on the night. They passed the ball well. We were a bit sloppy but we’re still undefeated. We made chances and on another night they go in so let’s push on.
“It has been a tough week, and with Seamie’s injury as well, it would have been nice if we had got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.
“We’re still ahead of Wales and we’re still four points ahead of them so it’s not the worst.
“I wanted to put on a performance that would make them, Martin McGuinness and Ryan McBride proud.
“With the national anthem and the minute’s applause, and me holding my little girl, it was an emotional night.”
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