REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
The Boys in Green will be seeking to continue their six game unbeaten run when they host fellow Europeans Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening (kick-off is at 7.45pm).
The Republic of Ireland will be looking to build on their encouraging point picked up on Thursday evening – with David McGoldrick’s late equaliser earning a draw.
Despite looking bereft of ideas for most of the night, the Irish rallied late on and could have nicked all three points, but it wasn’t to be on a dramatic night at the Lansdowne Road venue.
“There will be some changes against Bulgaria and the players understand that,” said Mick McCarthy at his pre-match press conference.
“Those who have travelled with us for the five competitive games without playing know that some of them will get their chances to impress in this match.”
One of those who is expected to be given a chance is forward Nathan Collins – a man who has certainly not had it all his own ways in recent years
“We were playing against one another in League One for Gillingham and Shrewsbury and we have both come far since then with me in the Championship and John in the Premier League,” said Collins.
“It has been a long journey. When you are doing well it gets recognised. I’ve been lucky to make it back-to-back promotions with Luton and making that step up to League One last year and now the Championship now this year is really special.
“I’m delighted I’m here and if I do get a chance it is all about taking it. With the game being a friendly on Tuesday, it’s a massive opportunity for me and players who’ve not got minutes.”
Sitting beside Collins, Sheffield United’s John Egan added that he has found Collins diifuclt to play against on many occasions. “He’s a good finisher,” said Egan.
“James has been brilliant and anywhere he’s been, he’s scored goals. When you’re going through the scores on Saturday, any team he’s played for, he’s always been on the scoresheet, which is your job as a striker.
“The Championship is really physically demanding, playing every Saturday and Tuesday. I think the Premier League is probably more mentally demanding.
“You’re playing against top teams every week, so you’re being asked different questions and coming up against the best strikers. It can only benefit me and make me a better player.”
McGoldrick and Callum Robinson are the only two absentees for the Tuesday evening friendly – with plenty of changes expected from the first friendly of McCarthy’s second reign as boss.
After suffering a mauling at the hands of England last time out in their European Qualifier clash at Wembley, Bulgaria make the trip across the Irish Sea to face what will be a makeshift Republic of Ireland.
The Bulgarians were in fact well in the game at Wembley prior to their concession of the first goal, but they soon wilted under the intense pressure of the Three Lions.
Currently lying 60th in the FIFA World Rankings, Bulgarian football is at its very lowest ebb in living memory – emphasised by their poor showings in recent years at international levels.
While memories of a more successful past still linger, manager Krasimir Balakov spoke after the game against England – admitting that his side have a long road ahead of themselves.
“I think the referee did well - I don’t comment on the referee’s performance and I don’t think the penalty was the problem. Our problem is that we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Balakov also noted that the ability of a certain Harry Kane was pivotal in putting his charges to the sword in London.
“He’s definitely one of the best in the world. The difference between him and the other great attackers in the world is that he’s very valuable to his team. He works hard and creates a lot for his teammates.”
Ireland are unbeaten in their previous six games, but they have not scored over 2.5 goals in the last ten games including friendlies. However, Ireland have only ever conceded over 1.5 goals twice since March 2018 against both France and Wales.
Bulgaria have only failed to score in two of their last 12 matches but kept just one clean sheet in the process. Bulgaria have conceded the opener in six of their last 11 games
With Jack Byrne having been left out of the matchday squad to face Switzerland, it is almost 34 years since the last league of Ireland player has played a senior competitive game for the Republic of Ireland – with Pat Byrne of Shamrock Rovers being the last.
Republic of Ireland 4/7; Draw 13/5; Bulgaria 4/1.
Republic of Ireland 2 - 0 Bulgaria
Republic of Ireland
Injured: David McGoldrick, Callum Robinson.