Republic of Ireland 0 Bulgaria 0
THE Republic of Ireland secured the point they needed to retain their status in League B in the Uefa Nations League as they drew 0-0 with Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium last night.
However, Stephen Kenny’s winless run now stands at eight games and they are now without a goal in 11 hours of play, with their only finish being a late Shane Duffy header from a corner away to Bulgaria in September. Ireland also missed out on the chance to be in the second pot of seeds for the World Cup qualifier draw.
Fourteen players from the original 26-man squad announced by the Irish boss in the lead-up to this international break were forced to withdraw in recent times, including Cork natives Adam Idah and John Egan, both through injury, while Alan Browne pulled out having tested positive for Covid-19.
Fellow Leesiders Conor Hourihane and Kevin Long started this important fixture, but Caoimhín Kelleher again had to settle for a place on the substitute’s bench.
Ireland started poorly and the Bulgarians had the first genuine sight at goal in the 27th minute, but after collecting a wayward Jason Knight pass, Dimitar Iliev’s shot from the edge of the box was easily saved by goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Moments after Ireland’s goalless run passed the 10-hour mark, they almost found an opener — but Robbie Brady’s free just missed James Collins, allowing Martin Lukov to palm to safety.
Ireland created another chance shortly before the half-time break, but Collins could only head over at the back post after good work by former Cork City attacker Daryl Horgan.
These two sides last met in Dublin in September 2019 and it was a memorable night for Cork as Ireland won 3-1 with Long and Browne grabbing their first senior international goals on a night Egan captained the side.
Collins also scored in that win and he twice went close to finding the net in the second half, but after he headed over Dara O’Shea’s cross, he drilled another delivery from the defender inches wide of the near post.
Ronan Curtis lofted the ball over the bar when through on goal moments later.
Indeed, they almost fell behind against the run of play just past the hour, but Duffy blocked Dimitrov’s goalbound strike from a few yards out.
Brady was unlucky to see a thunderous effort crash against the bar.
And although Ireland pressed for a winner by introducing former Cork City forward Sean Maguire late on, they just could not find the breakthrough.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Darren Randolph, Ryan Manning, Shane Duffy, Conor Hourihane, Daryl Horgan, James Collins, Robbie Brady, Ronan Curtis, Kevin Long, Jason Knight, Dara O’Shea.
Subs: Josh Cullen for Horgan (67), Jack Byrne for Brady (79), Sean Maguire for Collins (85) Cyrus Christie for Manning (85), Troy Parrott for Curtis (85).
Referee: Lawrence Visser (Belgium).