It was a goal. It was a penalty. We were playing 12 men.

David Fernandez Borbalan wasn’t feeling a whole lot of love from the home dressing room after his stint in the middle at the Aviva Stadium yesterday but Shane Duffy did at least have the good grace to look in the mirror as he belted out the chorus.

It was the Brighton & Hove Albion defender whose ‘goal’ was disallowed three minutes from the end. 

Who knows if it was for the fact that he used his upper arm to direct the ball goalwards, or the manner in which he horsed Stefan Lainer out of it in the process.

None of which is to say that Duffy felt the decision was right. Anywhere else on the pitch and it wouldn’t have been a foul, he protested afterwards.

Debatable that, to say the least. So too his defence that he kept his eyes on the ball at all times.

“It is easy to look at the referee,” he added. 

“You have to look at yourself a bit and in the first half we weren’t at it. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb. That’s where you have to look and not just blame the ref. There is no point. He is there to make decisions.

“Some are right some are wrong. You look at yourself, we know we are there to play. We could have been better in the first half and the manager has had us off and just told us to get it up there, get it up there to the big boys, and they couldn’t handle it really.”

He’s right in that.

Austria, like so many continental visitors to Dublin, were clueless as to how to deal with the sort of long-ball tactic that was rudimentary in the last century and Ireland were entitled to their regrets in spite of a performance that only caught fire towards the end.

Chief among them - the disallowed effort aside - was the refusal of Fernandez Borbalan to point to the spot after Jonathan Walters was clipped by a flailing leg as he brought his right foot forward to make contact with the ball in the 88th minute.

Austria will counter those claims with laments of their own.

The ease with which they profited from raids, particularly down the flanks, will be a worry for Martin O’Neill as he recaps over the summer but the partnership at the heart of defence between Duffy and Kevin Long fared well despite that pressure and their inexperience.

For Long it was just a third appearance for his country, all in the space of the last three games, and the former Cork City defender put in an impressive shift at the back where it fell to him to watch Julian Baumgartinger more often than not.

Duffy, his senior by eight caps, was impressed.

“He didn’t put a foot wrong. For someone who just came in he was excellent.”

On another day, the ‘dream’ competitive debut may have amounted to even more. Twice Long came within a sniff of a goal at the other end.

“The first one, the ball just came across,” he explained. 

“There was a lot of bodies in the box. It just came across me pretty quickly and I couldn’t adapt my body. And then I had a header late in the second-half that a lad just cleared off the line. Probably unlucky not to score so disappointed about that.”

It’s hardly a surprise if he seems impatient for it all now.

It’s taken seven years, eight loan spells and a myriad of injuries for his break to arrive at Burnley where he featured in three games towards the end of the Premier League season. His emergence, solidified by the performance last night, makes him a welcome addition to O’Neill’s defensive stocks.

“Yeah, I didn’t know much about Kevin before this,” said Walters. 

“I know he’s been at Burnley a few years and hasn’t really had a chance but he looked like a player ready to step up and let’s hope he plays some games, because he’s certainly good enough. He got his chance and I thought he played well.”


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