A man-of-the-match display from Middlesborough’s Darren Randolph rescued Ireland from defeat against neighbours Northern Ireland in front of 31,241 people at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland welcomed the return of Robbie Brady ahead of next week’s match against Denmark after a year on the international side-line, along with returning Séamus Coleman who missed the game against Denmark.
Despite this boost, Martin O’Neill’s men failed to find any sustained periods of possession in the final third in a game that was crying out for a creative midfielder to link with the attack.
Randolph pulled off heroics in either half to deny Gavin Whyte and Jordan Jones from close range.
The Official Man of the Match goes to Ireland keeper Darren Randolph! What a performance from the Wicklow man! #COYBIG #IRLNIR pic.twitter.com/m1u3DZPXqF
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 15, 2018
A laboured performance from Ireland marked what was likely to be Glenn Whelan’s final international appearance of an 85-cap career that has spanned over a decade. He was replaced by Aston Villa teammate Conor Hourihane before halftime.
Ireland featured six changes to their starting 11 and played with a 3-5-2 formation, with James McClean and Séamus Coleman flanking Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady and Whelan in the middle of the park.
Blackburn’s Darragh Lenihan marked his second international appearance with an assured performance alongside Shane Duffy and John Egan.
Michael Obafemi remained on the bench after declaring for Ireland amid speculation about his international future, while Seanie Maguire suffered yet more hamstring bother after he limped off just 13 minutes after being introduced as a substitute.
Ireland travel to the Parken Stadium on Monday to face Denmark in what is now a crunch clash after the goalless draw between the two in Dublin.
ROI: Randolph, Lenihan, (Christie, 84) Duffy, Egan, Coleman, Hendrick, Whelan ©, (Hourihane, 36), Brady, McClean (Stevens, 66), O’Dowda (Curtis, HT), Robinson, (Maguire, 66) (Hogan, 79)
NOI: Peacock-Farrell, Lewis, J Evans ©, Saville, Davis. Boyce, C Evans, (McNair, 65), Dallas, Whyte (Jones, 61), Cathcart, Smith, (Ward, 74)