REP OF IRELAND 1 SCOTLAND 1
Scotland salvaged a draw with the Rep of Ireland in the Amateur International friendly played at the splendid setting of Cooke Park, Tipperary town last Saturday night.
On what was another historic night for soccer in Co. Tipperary four local players participated in this friendly built up towards the upcoming UEFA Regions Cup qualifiers. The Rep of Ireland that made history in June 2011 by winning Silver Medals in the World’s top amateur tournament, will not be playing their qualifiers until March 2013 against San Marino (Hosts), England and Northern Ireland, the Scots will be visiting Czech Republic for their qualifiers at the end of the month. This was an opportunity for Irish boss Gerry Smith to give several fringe players the chance to impress.
Prior to kick-off International Amateur/Junior skipper since 2006 James ‘Chalky’ Walsh, who was breaking his own record moving on to 71 appearances led out the Irish team that included Paul Breen (making his 41 appearance) and included substitutes Christopher Higgins (on his sixth appearance) and debutant Jimmy Carr.
The players from both teams were presented to the various dignitaries from the FAI and Scottish FA before the CJ Kickhams Band from Tipperary town played ‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘The Soldier Song’ to appreciative applause from the good size attendance. Then it was down to action with Referee John Hadnett and his assistants John Maguire, John Walsh, and John Teehan – all from the Tipperary Branch of the ISRS – getting the game underway.
In a very competitive opening forty-five minutes on a night ideal for football, it saw the Rep of Ireland apply the early pressure. The Irish should have been at least three goals ahead before eventually taking the lead after 33 minutes. Adam Foley collected the ball on the edge of the Scots penalty area and his first time effort found the opposite corner of the net. However, just before half-time Scotland levelled when a flowing move from defence that split the normal reliable Irish defence were caught flat-footed and Ian Diack applied the finish from just outside the six-yard box low into the corner of the goal.
The second half was a stop-start affair with both sides taking the opportunity to try out several players. These included Christopher Higgins, who had played alongside James Walsh seven days earlier in Spain, and debutant Jimmy Carr who were introduced at half-time. It meant that up to 60th minute – when Paul Breen was withdrawn – there were four TSDL and St. Michael’s players on the pitch. This last happened in 2004, the year James Walsh made his debut, along with Paul Tobin, Davey Ryan and Kevin O’Sullivan in Finland. Another statistic for those that like to keep records, the Irish management team used the services of Kevin O’Sullivan as Goalkeeper Coach for this game.
So well done to all concerned with the staging of this game which once again proved that staging such games, here rather than the likes of Dublin, is a worthwhile exercise. Special thanks to Dick Hennessey and his team from the Order of Malta and others too many to mention. To St. Nicholas AFC of Solohead for use of facilities at Danny O’Dwyer Park by Scottish team on Saturday morning. I hope that we will see more high profile games in Co. Tipperary, and hopefully it will not take another six years for it to happen.