By Damian Spellman, PA
Jeff Hendrick has admitted that Ireland will be driven by the “hurt” inflicted upon them by Cristiano Ronaldo when they go-head-to-head in World Cup qualifying battle once again.
The sides meet in Dublin on Thursday evening two months after the 36-year-old produced two stunning last-gasp headers to rob them of a priceless Group A victory in Faro.
Ireland’s hopes of making it to the finals have since gone, while the Portuguese will climb to the top of the group if they avoid defeat at the Aviva Stadium, but Hendrick and his team-mates will run out determined to erase the memories of the pain they suffered at the Estadio Algarve.
The Newcastle midfielder said: “We were hurt after the last game, the effort we put in. When you play a team like that, you know it’s going to be hard. We had a game-plan and it worked really, really well, up to the 88th minute.
“We’d kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet for the whole game – that’s why he’s a top player. To have such a quiet game and score two goals is brilliant for him, but that hurt us.
“We have to try and put out that same level of commitment and hard work. We didn’t do too much wrong out there, but we’ve worked hard on what we can improve from that performance.”
Ronaldo, who had earlier seen a penalty saved by 19-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu, cancelled out John Egan’s goal in the 89th minute and then won it deep into stoppage time to underline his enduring potency.
However, Ireland boss Stephen Kenny insists it would be a mistake to base his strategy on simply stopping the Manchester United star.
Kenny said: “He’s a terrific player. The longevity over two decades has been quite incredible.
“But we’re not really focusing on one player as they can punish you from any area. We’re just trying to improve ourselves.
“We are not perfect and we know that there are a lot of areas where we can still improve. We are still emerging.
“You can see the improvement, but we have to work on a lot of other stuff. We have been doing that over the last few games and hopefully we can put in the performance that we need tomorrow night.
“Listen, Portugal are a world-class team – they’re the previous European champions, Nations League holders, we know they’ve got a lot of players who have played in the Champions League final and so forth.
“We are at home, we have a lot of good players ourselves and we are evolving as a team. You see the progression of the team and see the team evolving in front of your eyes every game we play.”
Kenny’s plans, however, are being hampered by an injury to teenage defender Andrew Omobamidele, who made a superb debut as a substitute in Faro and has established himself in the team since.
The 19-year-old reported with an Achilles injury suffered during Norwich’s 2-1 Premier League win at Brentford on Saturday and is a doubt for the game.
Kenny, who has already ruled out midfielder Jayson Molumby because of a hamstring problem, said: “We’ll have a fitness check on Andrew Omobamidele, who got a kick in his Achilles in the Norwich game at the weekend. It’s been sore and we’ll have to see how he is.”
Asked if he was optimistic, Kenny replied: “We’ll have to wait and see. I can’t say I’m optimistic. We’ll wait and see how he is.”