Irish Deaf team draws with France

Irish Deaf team draws with France

THE Republic of Ireland Deaf Sports team drew 1-1 with France in a European Championships qualifying round fixture at St Igny FC on Saturday.
14th Apr 2014

France 1 Republic of Ireland 1

THE Republic of Ireland Deaf Sports team drew 1-1 with France in a European Championships qualifying round fixture at St Igny FC on Saturday.

Captain Roy McKee and his boys gave a resilient and defiant performance as they took on the French with instructions from manager Geoff Foy to impose themselves early in the game with an adventurous game plan.

However disaster struck as the Boys in Green found themselves reeling within three minutes of kick-off after the French capitalised on an error conceded by the Irish midfield to mercilessly sweep through the exposed Irish defence, rifling the ball past goalkeeper Roy Keating.

Where lesser teams would have crumbled, it was testament to the character and spirit of the Irish players that their heads did not drop. Instead they rolled up their sleeves and puffed their chests out and got stuck in addressing the unsightly task that had unraveled before them; to restore pride in not just the Irish jersey but also in Irish Deaf Sports as a whole.

Granted, the first half wasn't a spectacle to watch as the Irish battled tenaciously and the game was strewn with stray passes and basic individual errors from both sides but nonetheless opportunities arose with the Irish midfield being out-muscled by the French on several occasions who quickly strove forward to unleash dangerous strikes which threatened Roy Keating's goal frame.

Foy quickly addressed the issue, redeploying Watson up front to partner Babb with Maguire and Young reassigned as wingers. The move saw a marked improvement from the boys in green, as Watson's invaluable experience came to the fore as his leadership empowered his teammates with badly needed confidence as they started to impose themselves more on the game.

Record top goal scorer Watson came close to setting up Maguire for an equaliser as he played in a lovely ball but the boy from Kerry couldn't quite manage to connect with the ball, as the opportunity flashed wide of the French goal.

At the half-time break, Geoff Foy and his coach Jamie Wilson urged the boys on, reminding them of their belief in them, convincing the boys that they were more than an even match for the French.

When the game resumed in the second half, it was clear that boys had come out with wind in their sails and Watson soon found himself one on one with the keeper only to be controversially ruled offside. Foy then made a tactical change, replacing Dudley with defensive midfielder Barry Campbell which proved to be a sound tactical decision as the Belfast veteran injected experience and defensive legs to the Irish midfield, allowing Watson to enjoy a more attacking role.

Ten minutes into the second half, it looked as an Irish equaliser wasn't too far away as the French defence evidently started to tire, thanks in no part to the lightening quick runs of striker Brian Babb who had stretched their defensive shape time and time again throughout.

It promptly arrived courtesy of the farmer from Donegal, Noel O'Donnell who bundled the ball in after the French keeper failed to deal with an Irish corner, sparking off jubilant celebrations in which O'Donnell unfortunately collected a booking after colliding with his opposite number.

Buoyed by the equaliser, the Boys in Green took the game to the French as Foy replaced the tiring legs of Eamon Byrne for the energetic Mark Sinclair. However they found the French equal to their efforts as the Les Bleus made several substitutions of their own which saw them hold a slight edge.

However the French found the Irish defence in dogged form, marshalled superbly by the inspirational McKee who had made several important interceptions as the French probed and probed in the last ten minutes of the game.

However in the dying minutes and against the run of play, Brian Babb suddenly found himself with only the keeper to beat after a long ball from the Irish was badly missed by the two French centre backs, but the pacy striker missed a golden opportunity to record an unlikely Irish victory as the keeper stood his ground to beat away his effort which fell into the path of Mark Sinclair whose effort just went wide of the post.

It proved to be the last meaningful chance of the game as the referee brought the game to a conclusion afterwards, much to the relief and satisfaction of the Irish management and players alike as they joyfully hugged each other in the knowledge that the unwavering faith they have in each other had not only just been tested but also strengthened.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Keating, McAra, O'Donnell, McKee (c), Dougherty, Dudley, Byrne, Watson, Young, Maguire, Babb. Subs: Campbell for Dudley 50; Sinclair for Byrne 65, Maher for Young 80, Millar and Walsh.