Republic Can Count On Coleman Support

by Adam Clark

When Republic of Ireland walk out against Moldova at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium tonight there will be few onlookers more nervous than Seamus Coleman.

Once again, the Everton full-back will have to watch from the sidelines as the nation he captains battle to keep their World Cup hopes alive without him. 

Overcome Moldova and a potential winner-takes-all showdown with Wales for second place in Group D will await them in Cardiff on Monday night, although top spot is not mathematically out of reach for either nation. 

Whether it is automatically or via the more likely play-off route, the ultimate goal for Martin O’Neill’s men is to qualify for a first World Cup finals since Japan and South Korea in 2002. 

Understandably, it's a dream Coleman, seven months into his rehabilitation from a broken leg, is reluctant to reach for prematurely. 

Should he lead the Green Army out at the tournament in Russia next summer it will fulfil a childhood ambition. 

But while confident in his teammates’ ability to deliver, he is pragmatic about the challenge awaiting them over the following days. 

“They’re two massive games,” says Coleman. “We were hoping we would’ve had a better two previous games (the Republic drew away in Georgia and at home to Austria) because that let Wales catch us. 

“But we’ve got two games now - Moldova at home, which is huge, then hopefully, if we beat Moldova, it will go down to the Wales game. 

“That’s going to be a massive game for both countries but a game that I’m more than confident we can win.”

Coleman has had to accept a watching brief ever since suffering his cruel injury in the first qualification meeting with Wales in March. 

It’s not been an easy assignment, but the 28-year-old skipper - appointed last September following Robbie Keane’s retirement from the international game - has continued to act as a pillar of support. 

He joined up with the squad for their last two qualifiers, attending training sessions and socialising with the players at the team hotel. 

“I suppose I just have that connection, it’s not necessarily anything to do with the armband as such,” he explains.

“You probably do feel that responsibility being captain but [I did it] just because it’s my country, it’s my team, it’s the lads I like being around and I want to see them do well. 

“It’s very difficult, to not be fit to do a tackle to get the fans behind you or make a run to get the players up - it’s difficult when you can’t contribute like you’d want to. 

“But I always want to make sure, if I can’t be there as a player, I want to be there in some capacity, even to just be around the place day-to-day and see them. So it was important to be there and, please God, now against Moldova and Wales we can do the business and enjoy next summer, but there’s a long way to go.”

Being forced to take it all in from a fans’ perspective is a new - and frequently frustrating - experience to which Coleman readily admits he is still trying to adjust. 

“Definitely,” he says. “I think you feel it probably that bit more than a fan even. You’ve got that fan in you and you’re jumping off your seat at every chance, but you’ve also got that feeling that you know the lads, so you definitely want them to do well, and you’ve got that emotional attachment to them. 

“When someone does well or makes a mistake, it hits you a little bit more, so it’s quite difficult watching. You just want to make sure the lads do well.

“Every kid’s dream is to play at a World Cup and mine’s no different,” he adds, a telling glint in his eye. “But I’m not talking about Russia yet because we have too big a job to do and if you start looking too far ahead then you’ll take your eye off the ball.

“We’ve got two big games and then still a play-off to do, so at the minute we can only look to Moldova and try to win that game, then move on to Cardiff. 

“That will be a massive game for both countries and, please God, it’s a game we can come out on top in.”

Head back to later for our report on Republic of Ireland v Moldova. 

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