• Ireland host Scotland in a huge clash in Group D of Euro 2016 qualifying
  • Robbie Keane on the bench for Ireland after the death of two cousins
  • Ireland XI: Given, Coleman, Brady, Wilson, O’Shea, McCarthy, Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan, Walters, Murphy 
  • Scotland XI: Marshall, Hutton, Forsyth, Martin, Mulgrew, Maloney, Morrison, Brown, S.Fletcher, Naismith, Ritchie 
  • Scotland are third in Group D, two points above Ireland in fourth 

Jonny Singer for MailOnline

The Republic of Ireland host Scotland in a monumental clash in Group D of Euro 2016 qualifying at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Defeat for the hosts would all but banish their hopes of reaching next year’s tournament in France. They are fourth in Group D, two points behind Scotland in third.

Scotland emerged victorious in the first group encounter between these two sides at Celtic Park in November thanks to Shaun Maloney’s 74th minute strike.

  • Jonny Singer

    Host commentator

We have an unmelodramatic Italian in the house. Referee Nicola Rizzoli is the coolest customer on the pitch, even when both sets of players surrounded him following a nasty challenge by James McCarthy on Russell Martin.

McCarthy caught Martin on the nose with the top of his elbow and has become the second player in the book.  

While neither side will be totally happy with this first 33 minutes, they’ll be glad to know that Poland are still being held by Georgia. If the Georgians could hold on for a point, that would be seriously good news for these two. 

James McCarthy goes into the book for a nasty looking collision with Russell Martin. The midfielder jumps for a header leading with his elbow.

I wouldn’t suggest it was deliberate, but Martin needs some treatment. Players from both side crowd the referee, but, to his credit, the official stays calm. Just a yellow. 

Jonathan Walters is really causing some trouble down the right hand side. Twice in a matter of moments he gets a cross away – the first is too deep and cleared (via a completely absurd handball appeal), the second wins Ireland a corner. He’s certainly a handful.

Unfortunately for both sides, there isn’t much end product to go with all the very promising hustle and bustle. 

Everton’s Seamus Coleman likes to attack from right-back and he has just had an earful from his skipper John O’Shea, presumably for not judging when is the correct time to gallop forward.

No prisoners are being taken out there. Robbie Brady, after winning a tackle, leaps for a header, and more or less flattens Matt Ritchie. 

Again, the referee acknowledges the foul but lets play go one. That was slightly brutal!

Ireland are buzzing around when they don’t have possession, so eager to win it back. 

The experiment to start with Derby County’s Jeff Hendrick has been a big success for Martin O’Neill so far.

Hendrick is everywhere, offering defensive protection in the middle of the park one minute, then bursting down the right to create danger the next. Energy to burn and he’s unsettling Scotland.

You fancy Ireland from set pieces today, and if Robbie Brady can continue to deliver like that they have a real chance. His corner is cleared, but it was into a perfect area, really inviting, without giving the goalkeeper a chance to come and claim. 

Whelan, who is having a strange game so far, plays a pretty terrible pass straight out of play to end that spell of pressure. 

With only 20 minutes played, you don’t want your combative midfielder walking a tight-rope. But Glenn Whelan puts in a silly tackle on Steven Fletcher, and there’s no option but to book him. Silly boy. 

The resulting free kick, from a dangerous area, is too long, and drifts out for a goal kick.

A little bit of upset around the Aviva (and from the two Irishmen in Mail HQ!) as Matt Richie diverts a dangerous cross into the hands of his own keeper.

No intent there, he had no idea where he was kicking it, so a correct call – not a back pass. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the start, it has all eased off a bit here. Both sides look happy to pass the ball around at the back for a bit. 

Side to side, rather than too many vertical passes at the moment. Eventually Glenn Whelan smashes a shot over from 30 yards. Miles over. 

Ireland came flying out the traps but a great dig by Steven Fletcher tipped over by Shay Given reminded the home fans that Gordon Strachan’s side have quality in their ranks. This match promises to be as close as most people predicted.

A couple of meaty Irish challenges coming in as Scotland put together their first bit of meaningful possession. 

The visitors moved the ball nicely, and twice the referee had to play advantage following some pretty hefty tackles. 

In the end Steven Naismith, bursting into the box, just can’t get to the ball. Promising signs though. 

Seamus Coleman of Republic of Ireland takes on James Morrison

A first chance for Shaun Maloney to get on the ball in a dangerous position, and it produces the first chance. 

The midfielder feeds Steven Fletcher, who needs no invitation to shoot. Shay Given tips the shot, which was probably going over anyway, behind for a corner. 

That set piece leads to another, but eventually Ireland get a goal kick. Better from Scotland. 

Scotland just look to lower the temperature with a bit of possession, but as soon as Martin O’Neill’s side get the ball back they pour forward. 

Hoolahan and Coleman combine nicely down the right, where the home side seem to be focusing their attacking play, but the Everton full back’s cross is poor. 

A first attack from Scotland, on the counter, ends when Steven Naismith scuffs a shot wide from 25 yards.

Craig Forsyth then makes a little error, and almost allows Murphy in, but recovers at the expense of a corner. David Marshall claims confidently, but it’s been a 100mph start.

No doubt about the early pattern of play, Ireland are all over this so far!

Jonathan Walters gets in down both flanks, but neither cross is good enough – really enterprising play from the forward though.

And if you want a taste for how positive Ireland have started, Seamus Coleman just put in a challenge on the edge of the Scotland box. Seriously attacking.

A very moving moment as the whole of the stadium pays tribute to Robbie Keane’s two cousins with a moment’s applause.

Keane looked close to tears as he joined in, and so did Irish captain John O’Shea. The football is now underway and you can’t believe the passion in Dublin.

Not what you need at the beginning of a big game! Russell Martin almost gifts Daryl Murphy the ball through on goal, but Charlie Mulgrew just about covers. Almost a nightmare start for the visitors.

Ireland playing really positively, and Wes Hoolahan almost gets on the ball on the edge of the box. That’s a really encouraging side for the home side. 

Scotland, playing in white, get us underway. A huge 90 minutes ahead!

Pleasantries are over. We could not be more ready. The stadium is buzzing, with the Tartan Army in full voice and the home fans providing a sea of green. 

Just a moment of respect for a number of people connected to Irish football who have died recently, including Robbie Keane’s two cousins. 

Cries of ‘Keano’ ring out around the Aviva – the man himself looks remarkably composed. 

You’ve probably watched enough football to know what the national anthems sound like, so I won’t bore you by describing them in detail – apart from to mention that there is a good deal of Scottish support inside the Aviva today.

What I will bring your attention to, is that, as I’m sure you know, this game has another sub-plot that I haven’t yet touched on – it is the battle of the former Celtic managers. 

Both Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan had significant success at the Glasgow club, with the Scotland manager succeeding the Ireland one. But who will come out on top today? 

As you’d expect, the noise is ear-splitting inside The Aviva Stadium for a Celtic derby. The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, is here and being introduced to both teams.

Still eight minutes until kick off, but with anthems and introductions to come, the players are already out. 

Pulses are rising, presidents are waiting… we aren’t far away now!

If there’s one man who loves a big game, it’s Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane. 

The former Manchester United midfielder, with socks pulled up all the way, has been glowering around the pitch in that way only he can, taking the warm-up. 

He looks fired up!

Republic of Ireland legend Mark Lawrenson has just been interviewed on the big screen and been his usual sardonic self.

Referring to Martin O’Neill’s team selection, Lawro said: ‘Me and Paul McGrath have got four different formations written upstairs, we can’t work it out. Maybe that is why Martin has done it, Gordon won’t know the formation either.’

Lawrenson is delighted Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan is getting a rare start. ‘He is the best passer we’ve got and can see a pass,’ he said.

In the Irish side, there is obvious quality all around – Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady are quality, John O’Shea will organise the defence, and Jonathan Walters is a proven Premier League player up front. 

So it’s in between that they need to prove themselves, and Wes Hoolahan could well be the key to that. The diminutive midfielder can be a real star, as he has shown for Norwich this season, driving them to promotion, but he can have the tendency to go missing. 

He needs to turn up, and be at his best, for Ireland to be at their best. If he does, expect chances to flow.

Who are the key men today? Well, I’ll have you know I had a lovely bit prepared on Ikechi Anya for Scotland, but he’s on the bench, so I’ve gone for Shaun Maloney for the visitors. 

He has been a big part of Scotland’s revival under Gordon Strachan, and the major reason they are sitting pretty in third place in the group. If he plays well he can make this side tick – not to mention the goals he contributes…

Two strong teams, a bit of needle, some rivalry, and a huge amount at stake. You know what this game needs? Friendship scarves!

Honestly, is there anything worse than this in modern football? I’d put it marginally ahead of diving and Marouane Chamakh’s hair. Other suggestions always welcome. 

There won’t be a dry eye in Dublin if Robbie Keane comes off the bench this afternoon to net his record 66th goal for the Republic of Ireland today.

Keane has been mourning the tragic deaths of two of his cousins, Alan and Stephen Harris, who were overcome by poisonous fumes this week whilst working as plumbers on a sewage pipe.

Keane has declared himself available and Martin O’Neill has named him as a substitute.

Roy Keane (centre) and Robbie Keane talk on the pitch before today’s game

Martin O’Neill has been speaking before the game about his team and their chances, and here is what he had to say:

‘Daryl Murphy’s had a really great season for Ipswich, he’s a real handful. He deserves his chance today.

‘Must win? I think we really need to win the game to keep ourselves in contention. IF the sides come out level it’s advantage scotland so we’re going to try and win the game.

‘There’s going to be a lot of battles, but midfield in particular. We think we’re capable of dealing with that today.’

Martin O’Neill has been speaking before the game about his team and their chances, and here is what he had to say:

‘Daryl Murphy’s had a really great season for Ipswich, he’s a real handful. He deserves his chance today.

‘Must win? I think we really need to win the game to keep ourselves in contention. IF the sides come out level it’s advantage scotland so we’re going to try and win the game.

‘There’s going to be a lot of battles, but midfield in particular. We think we’re capable of dealing with that today.’

For Scotland, the pressure is a little less severe. A win today would open up that lovely gap over their opponents, but a defeat would only see them a point behind the Republic, with four games to play. 

A first major tournament since 1998 would be firmly on the horizon if they could snatch three points here…

In many ways this game is more important for the hosts than Scotland. 

Having been at the last Euros in 2012, they are the closest of the teams from these islands to missing out this time around. Wales more or less booked their place in France last night, England are all but there, while even Northern Ireland are in a commanding position.

The Republic, on the other hand, would be in real trouble if they were to lose today, in all likelihood slipping five points off the play-off spot. 

It’s a must-win.

There is a genuine surprise in the line-ups named by Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan. Daryl Murphy of Ipswich Town will start up front instead of Shane Long, a proven Premier League striker with West Brom, Hull and Southampton, but who hasn’t always peaked for his country. 

Strachan’s decision not to start Ikechi Anya has also raised eyebrows, he has been one of Scotland’s best players in the Euro 2016 campaign so far.

But I’ve been chatting to Pat Nevin, a more-than-useful wide player for Scotland in his day, and he thinks Strachan believes Anya may be better utlised to being an impact player in the last 20 minutes when Ireland are tiring.

Ikechi Anya (centre) has been left out, but could be useful later on

Fewer problems for Gordon Strachan, but a few slight surprises – Craig Forsyth starts at left back, ahead of Hull’s Andy Robertson, while Ikechi Anya is left out.

Scotland: Marshall, Hutton, Forsyth, Martin, Mulgrew, Maloney, Morrison, Brown, S.Fletcher, Naismith, Ritchie

Let’s start with the Irish team news, and it isn’t good for Martin O’Neill.

Robbie Keane, who was a doubt following the death of two cousins this week, is not going to play, and neither is Aiden McGeady, who misses out with a hamstring injury. Two huge blows.

Ireland: Given, Coleman, Brady, Wilson, O’Shea, McCarthy, Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan, Walters, Murphy

A local rivalry. Two sets of expectant fans. A cracking goal last time they met.

This game would be tasty even if there wasn’t anything riding on it.

Throw in a huge step towards a major tournament, and this evening’s match is one of epic proportions…

Aston Villa team mates Alan Hutton and Shay Given meet up as the teams arrive at the Aviva Stadium



The Republic of Ireland take on Scotland in a mouth-watering Euro 2016 Group D qualifying clash 

The Republic of Ireland take on Scotland in a mouth-watering Euro 2016 Group D qualifying clash 

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