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Slovakia awaits for Kenny’s men in ‘winner takes all’ playoff

Photo taken by Marco Verch. Sourced from Flickr.

Gavin Dalton weighs up Ireland’s hopes of reaching 2020’s European Championships as they face play-off semi final tonight against Slovakia. 

It is a do or die clash for Stephen Kenny’s troops at Bratislava’s Tehelne Pole, with the winners advancing to take on either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland for one of four coveted remaining places in the championship finals.

Can Ireland reach a third European Championships in succession? 

New Irish manager Stephen Kenny has been thrown in at the deep end with this tie. There has been less preparation with the squad as would have been hoped given the swift takeover from his predecessor Mick McCarthy. Also, the sporting hiatus due to the misfortunate pandemic which grasped the world by the horns has added to the pressure on the new boss.

Travelling to Slovakia for the clash is Gary Spain, a reporter with the popular online channel, IrishFootballFanTV, and a lifelong fan of the Boys in Green. Despite the fact that victory on the night is the only option given the one leg format, Gary expects Ireland will likely approach the game in an attentive manner.

“Although it is win or lose, we may still see a cautious approach. The game does not need to be won in 90 minutes as extra time or penalties would be enough.”

“I don’t see us being gung-ho from the start. It may well lead to a nervous 90 or 120 minutes,” he said. 

Kenny confirmed on Sunday that Ireland and Everton captain Seamus Coleman will miss the clash having picked up an untimely hamstring injury at the weekend in a win over Brighton and Hove Albion. 

Speaking of Coleman’s absence, Gary added: “ Seamus is our captain and a leader in the squad. He will be missed for his experience and leadership qualities, not to mind being an excellent player. Matt Doherty may well have started anyway in his place but Seamus will be missed from the group.”

Given the strict Covid restrictions in place in the host nation, the sides will battle it out without their beloved fans present on the night. The veteran of Irish football, Spain, feels this aspect of the game may or may not work in favour of Ireland. He added: “ As the away side, it should benefit us that no home fans are allowed. However we will also miss the large passionate travelling support. Away from home under the cosh, the fans have lifted the team in the past. This will be missed on Thursday.”

To return to Dublin on Friday with a playoff final to prepare for is the big goal for this Irish side. Gary feels that Ireland have a chance if “defence is crucial- we must not give up easy chances, if we are difficult to break down and can stay in the game until the later stages.”

With the nation’s hopes lying in tandem with those of Gary Spain’s, a high stakes, mouth-watering affair awaits. Here’s hoping for a memorable night in Bratislava for Stephen Kenny and his men. 

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