Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 hopefuls got mixed reviews as Kevin Doyle’s injury overshadowed a dour 1-0 win over Switzerland in Friday’s friendly in Dublin.
With time running out before the Euros, Republic boss Martin O’Neill fielded an experimental line-up at the Aviva Stadium as he took a closer look at the understudies hoping to make the plane to France.
Brentford midfielder Alan Judge was given his senior international debut, while Blackburn defender Shane Duffy made a second appearance for his country almost two years after his first.
There were also starts for Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Aiden McGeady and Doyle.
But none of the reserves really impressed in a tepid encounter won by Ciaran Clark’s early goal, but destined to be remembered only for a nasty looking injury suffered by Colorado Rapids forward Doyle.
Making his first appearance since October 2014, the 32-year-old’s hopes of impressing O’Neill were ruined midway through the first half when he was stretchered off following a crunching tackle on Timm Klose that left him with a deep leg gash, raising fears he might be sidelined for the Euros.
O’Neill had challenged his players to emulate the remarkable achievements of his old club Leicester, who are within touching distance of becoming the most unexpected champions in English soccer history.
While even O’Neill doesn’t expect Ireland to win the Euros, he believes his side are capable of a good run and he was given early encouragement as Clark opened the scoring in the second minute.
Duffy flicked on Robbie Brady’s corner and Aston Villa defender Clark was perfectly placed to head home his second international goal.
Switzerland are also preparing for the Euros and they got a foothold in the game after that early setback, with Haris Seferovic flicking a header just wide, before Republic keeper Darren Randolph kept out a deflected shot by Granit Xhaka.
Former Reading star Doyle’s injury cast a shadow over the rest of a scrappy first half until Shane Long hit the crossbar with a header from Seamus Coleman’s cross.
Switzerland controlled possession in the second half, but chances were few and far between and O’Neill responded by sending on Jonny Hayes and Eunan O’Kane for their debuts.
O’Neill’s men nearly shipped a late equalizer when substitute Shani Tarashaj fired narrowly wide, but Ireland held on for their first win over the Swiss for exactly 24 years.
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