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Martin O'Neill's contract extension raises stakes for Republic of Ireland
07 Octubre 2017, 08:55 | Crisanna Felipe
PNE duo in the Republic of Ireland squad
But Martin O'Neill is going for it with some bold choices. Ireland resorted to the long ball on occasion, but after playing in that style for so long and under so many different managers, it is hard to get rid of old habits.
Ireland fans (and Eamon Dunphy) will be delighted to see Wes Hoolahan in the side. His best opportunity came in the 61st minute. In an Irish team crying out for creativity, the Bristol City midfielder showed glimpses of the raw talent that persuaded Martin O'Neill to promote the youngster from the U21 squad. He takes a touch, and his shot is deflected to Long, and he has an open goal to shoot at that drifts just a few inches wide.
Following last month's disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Serbia; the Boys in Green find themselves in need of a wins in order to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Nonetheless, thousands of supporters travelling across the water this weekend will be crammed into every pub in Cardiff, biting their nails for 90 minutes.and that's only for the Scotland match on Sunday, hoping for a slip-up in Slovenia.
Jeff Hendrick was restored to the starting XI, while the team's most in-form goalscorer Murphy - with six league goals with Nottingham Forest this season - also came in to join Shane Long up front in a 4-4-2 diamond. Useful traits should Jonathan Walters' injury woes continue and Murphy is called upon to deputise once again. We know what we have to do.
With O'Neill expressing a desire to stay with the Republic beyond the current campaign, he acknowledged the importance of his assistant manager. Could releasing details of the Irish manager's future two days ahead of the most important pair of worldwide fixtures since the previous World Cup not have waited until the following week?
The love-hate relationship between player and games producer has not ended there.
Before his new contract was announced he had set out his reasons for optimism. They will secure qualification, with a game to spare, if they beat Slovenia at Wembley.
The race to finish second, though, will go down to the wire with a showdown between Wales and the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.
Caution has been O'Neill's default setting with this limited group of players - it is, in fairness, a tactic which has served him well - but in Cardiff he must set up for victory, a foreign concept for the manager against a team ranked some 21 places higher in FIFA's order. With the exception of the matches with the Georgian team, in which Moldova played a draw, in the remaining matches Moldova - lost.
And while the clean sheet was welcome, the sight of Moldova owning the ball for long spells in a terrible second half should also serve a note of caution, though we can only hope that Wes Hoolahan has enough in the tank, and the faith of his manager, to start once again on Monday.
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