Republic of Ireland 4
CORK'S Caoimhin Kelleher and Chiedozie Ogbene made their first start and their home debuts for the Republic of Ireland as they made it back-to-back wins with a 4-0 win against Qatar at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.
A Callum Robinson hat-trick and a Shane Duffy header ensured Ireland followed up their defeat of Azerbaijan with another triumph - the first time they’ve recorded consecutive victories since March 2019 - to ease the pressure on manager Stephen Kenny, who enjoyed his first home win.
There were four Cork natives in Kenny’s starting eleven with John Egan retaining his usual place in the centre of defence while Conor Hourihane was given the opportunity to impress in midfield.
But it was a huge night for their fellow Leesiders Kelleher and Ogbene, who were handed their first starts for their country while it was also the first time they played in front of a home crowd.
The Boys in Blue - Ireland were wearing a blue jersey as part of the FAI's centenary celebrations - started confidently and they deservedly took the lead in the fourth minute.
And it was the man of the moment Callum Robinson who got it as following a couple of neat one-twos, the striker’s effort from the edge of the penalty area deflected into the roof of the net.
Hourihane continued to impress and he again went close to teeing up a fellow Cork man in the 11th minute but the lively Ogbene couldn’t connect with his sensational delivery right in front of goal.
The sellout crowd of 25,000 in attendance wouldn’t have to wait too much longer to celebrate again though as their team made it 2-0 a minute later when Robinson got his second, coolly slotting his penalty into the bottom left corner after the excellent Jamie McGrath was fouled.
Qatar are somehow ranked 43rd in the FIFA World Rankings - seven places above Ireland - but they played like a side much worse than that.
The visitors were fortunate to see Ogbene’s header crash against the bar just before half-time but they would soon concede again when Robinson slotted Jeff Hendricks superb through ball past the keeper at the beginning of the second half while Duffy headed home Hourihane’s corner on the hour to put the seal on a positive few days for Ireland.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Caoimhin Kelleher, Matt Doherty, Shany Duffy, John Egan, Andrew Omabamidele, Enda Stevens, Jeff Hendrick, Conor Hourihane, Jamie McGrath, Chiedozie Ogbene, Callum Robinson.
Subs: Cyrus Christie for Doherty (ht), Jason Knight for Ogbene (69), Nathan Collins for Duffy (77), Troy Parrott for Robinson (77), James Collins for McGrath (88), Harry Arter for Hourihane (88).
QATAR: Meshaal Barsham, Pedro Miguel, Abdelkarim Hassan, Tarek Salman, Abdelaziz Hatim, Hasan Alhaydos, Akram Afif, Karim Boudiaf, Homam Elamin, Bassam Hisham Alrawi, Almoez Ali.
Subs: Assim Madibo for Hatim (72), Ahmed Alaaeldin for Ali (72).
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Northern Ireland).