It’s not often Ireland have benefitted from news on the injury front during this campaign but the apparent absence of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale for Wales’ remaining games could provide a huge twist in World Cup Qualifying Group D.
It looked as though Ireland had thrown any chance of qualification away following a limp display against Georgia and home defeat to Serbia but once again events elsewhere have thrown us a lifeline.
Not that it’s all rosey on the Irish injury front, Jon Walters will be a huge loss as the Boys in Green attempt to break down Moldova before kicking in the door at the Millennium Stadium. It remains to be seen whether former Cork City star, Seanie Maguire, has shown enough to be given a green cap. The game against Moldova should give him a nice introduction to the international stage.
I would expect nothing less than three points against the Eastern Europeans as O’Neill’s troops attempt to shake off the disappointment of the Serbian defeat. However, worrying habits have surfaced during this campaign and Irish eyes certainly won’t be smiling if cast upon another negative World Cup performance.
As for Cardiff, the absence of Bale is a huge blow for Chris Coleman’s hot and cold dragons. Their record is decent with the Madridista and fairly mediocre without and he is the second highest scorer so far in this campaign with four goals, just behind Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic on six. He’ll also be missed against what we hope is a stubborn Georgia.
Provided they win on Friday against Moldova, the Republic will arrive at the last chance saloon on Monday night in Cardiff. The hope will be for a blood and guts performance and the slaying of an understrength but dangerous dragon. Any help tomorrow night from our new best friends in Tbilisi would also be very much appreciated when Eurovision voting rolls around again. Until then we’ll just have to “Keep the Faith”.