McCarthy sees 4 minutes as Ireland make hard work of Macedonia

Ireland drew level at the top of Group B with Slovakia and Russia with a 2-1 win against Macedonia at Lansdowne Road. In a frantic opening, it took a minute 22, seconds for Aidan McGeady get Ireland off to the perfect start. Kevin Doyle nodded the ball down to himself after a high ball and laid the ball off to McGeady to the left of the D. The Spartak winger flicked the ball inside and fired the ball into the corner past the helpless Edin Nuredinoski, who got a hand to it but could not keep it out.

On six minutes after Ireland were in a familiar position again, this time on the right side with Damien Duff cutting inside and firing at Nuredinoski, who gathered the ball at the second attempt. It would be a similar story throughout the half as the Macedonian number 1 failed to gather a number of shots at the first attempt. And to Ireland's credit, they didn't sit back on and continued with an attacking mentality. Ten minutes in Nuredinoski was called into action again. This time McGeady played the ball wide to Kevin Kilbane who whipped in a cross for Doyle, whose header had the keeper scrambling to push the ball behind as Robbie Keane rushed in at the back post.

If there was a negative for Trappatoni it came when when Doyle went down and signaled straight away . The Wolves attacker seemed to and was replaced by .

Macedonia were limited to two long rang efforts from Ivan Trichkovski. The first was gathered comfortably by Irish keeper Keiren Westwood, but the second left the Coventry keeper stuck to his line as he missed the far post with a bending effort.

Nuredinoski gifted Ireland a second on 20 minutes when he failed to hold a Darren Gibson free kick and Keane rushed in to poke the ball home for 2-0. And Ireland didn't let up for the rest of the half. Five minutes later, Ireland went the length of the field in a lightning break. Richard Dunne found Duff 25 metres from his own goal and the Fulham winger chested the played down before finding full back Kevin Foley whose sublime first time pass found Keane inside the Macedonian half. Keane's delightful first time ball found Long on the run and the Reading striker took on the centre half before cutting inside and putting the ball just wide of the keeper's far post. But for the remaining 20 minutes Ireland offered little

As the half wore on, the entensity which saw Ireland cruise to a 2-0 lead dropped, but Ireland were still a threat. A Westwood free kick for offside was flicked on by Long in the air to Keane, but the West Ham striker failed to connect properly with the ball and it went high and wide. And Ireland were made to pay for a slip in concentration just before the half when Trichkovski was third time lucky after Goran Pandev played the midfielder in. He stepped inside Richard Dunne and slid the ball net past Westwood.

Five minutes into the game Boban Grncharov caught Long in the side of the face with a high foot, but the Hungarian official deemed a yellow card sufficient punishment but Ireland continued to draw the Macedonian team onto them as they gave the ball away in the final third. On 57 minutes the Irish fans responded after some McGeady magic down the left wing and a delightful chip into the box found Duff at the back post, who cut inside before shooting wide of the far post.

When Duff broke down the right on 63 minutes, he found Keane on the edge of the box, but his attempt to play in a free Long coming in from the left, with the ball ricocheting off the inside of the defenders right leg and Nuredinoski gathered. At the other end Macedonia were wasteful with a number of chances with the lively Trichkovski and Pandev causing the defense problems. As the game approached the final quarter hour, Ireland got deeper and deeper and when Trichkovski brilliantly controlled a Muhamed Demri ball over the top of the Irish defense, it took a great save from Westwood to retain Ireland's lead.

The game was crying out for some creativity to inject some spark into the Irish game, but Keith Fahey was given the nod by Trapattoni with James McCarthy having to look on from the sideline. Fahey wasted wasted free kick on the edge of the Macedonian box before the Irish crowd rose to acclaim the arrival on the international scene of McCarthy. Four minutes of normal time remaining was hardly enough for the young Wigan player, but on a night where Ireland clawed their way back to the top of Group B, it may be a fitting start for the youngster. Ireland are now level with Slovakia and Russia, heading into Tuesday's friendly with Uruguay where Ireland may see how good McCarthy may be.

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