Daryl Murphy bagged a brace to keep his country’s World Cup hopes alive.
Martin O’Neill celebrated agreeing an extended stay as Republic of Ireland manager by watching his team ensure their World Cup qualification bid will go down to the wire in Wales.
Friday night’s 2-0 victory over Moldova means Ireland remain in the thick of a three-way battle for a top-two finish in Group D.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at what we learned from the clash with Moldova.
It is an often repeated refrain in Irish football circles that Wes Hoolahan is not the future of the national team, and at 35 that is undeniable. But as the Norwich schemer demonstrated once again, he is very much the present and continues to provide much of the inspiration for a team which lacks incision without him. He was aided and abetted by 34-year-old striker Daryl Murphy, whose second and third senior international goals could hardly have been better timed.
O’Neill has made no secret of his admiration for 22-year-old Bristol City winger Callum O’Dowda, but the decision to hand him a first competitive start still raised eyebrows. However, O’Dowda did not disappoint as he took the game to admittedly limited opposition to suggest he will have more opportunities to pull on the green jersey.
Randolph remains Ireland’s first-choice goalkeeper despite strong competition from Newcastle’s Rob Elliot and Sheffield Wednesday’s Keiren Westwood. The Middlesbrough man did not have a great deal to do against Moldova, but had he not clawed Sergiu Platica’s stinging volley away from his top corner six minutes after Murphy had made it 2-0, the atmosphere might have changed significantly.
Southampton striker Long last found the back of the net on February 11 as the Saints won 4-0 at Sunderland in the Premier League, and has since gone 24 games for club and country without a goal. He might have claimed a hat-trick against Moldova, but with confidence low he side-footed one effort inches wide, thumped another straight at keeper Ilie Cebanu and steered a third past the post when it looked easier to score.
Ireland’s campaign has seen peaks and troughs. November’s 1-0 win in Austria took their points tally to 10 from a possible 12, but it was followed by a run of three costly draws, two of them at the Aviva Stadium. Last month’s home defeat by Serbia, despite a performance which was a significant improvement on a drab display in Georgia three days earlier, dented spirits further, but the manner of victory over the Moldovans has allowed the nation to dream once again.
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