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Before Jack Byrne even made his substitute appearance just before the hour mark at the Aviva stadium, the Shamrock Rovers player was trending on Twitter, which illustrated just how much action was taking place at Lansdowne Road.
It had been a game where the temptation had been there to jump over to Virgin One to watch England’s Group A Euro 2020 qualifier with an in-form Kosovo, but surely there wasn’t much happening there.
Finally though, there was something to cheer about in Dublin, when in the 56th minute, Preston North End’s Alan Browne, put Ireland in front. Ireland had broken well in a move which began with Browne. Alan Judge and Callum O’Dowda linked well to play in Ronan Curtis on the left.
Curtis, who had some tidy touches throughout the game, took his shot as well as expected based on the space available, so when Hristo Ivanov parried his shot Hogan was patient and nicked the ball into Browne who had read the play wonderfully, and was ready for a tap in. Brown started it and ultimately finished it.
But Bulgaria were not finished, and when John Egan fouled Bozhidar Kraev the penalty was inevitable. Mark Travers had no chance at stopping the resulting spot-kick from Ivelin Popov.
As the substitutions rolled on, the Irish side kept their shape as well as they could considering the interruptions and were the ones pressing. In the 82nd minute, Jack Byrne stood over a corner, and as he has done so often with Shamrock Rovers this season, produced a delivery of acute dexterity, placing the ball on the head of Burnley’s Kevin Long.
Mick McCarthy was delighted. And even more so when Enda Stevens was played through by Byrne who hit a lobbed pass which Stevens smacked across the Bulgarian defence for James Collins to poke home on his debut.
Byrne replicated exactly what he does at club level and shows he has the maturity and confidence to do so. And also illustrates the jump up from domestic to international football within Ireland, is not as seismic a leap as it can be made out to be.
Innate technique is just that. Not a classic, but we knew it wouldn’t be. But there were some nice things for McCarthy to take away and consider.