The path beginning to clear in front of Stephen Kenny and Ireland

Republic of Ireland's Callum Robinson grabbed a hat-trick against Qatar
Republic of Ireland's Callum Robinson grabbed a hat-trick against Qatar

International friendly: Republic of Ireland 4 Qatar 0

A SLICK hat-trick from Callum Robinson and a Shane Duffy header saw Republic of Ireland win at home for first time under Stephen Kenny against hapless 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar last night.

Robinson nabbed two first-half goals in the opening 13 minutes to send the Irish well on their way in this friendly clash before making it a hat-trick on 54 minutes.

And if Qatar weren’t demoralised enough at that stage, Shane Duffy popped up to make it four just before the hour mark.

World Cup qualification may be gone for the Irish but the last few days have been the best under Kenny and should buy him some breathing space ahead of next month’s showdown with Portugal.

In a reign ravaged by COVID-related absenteeism, retirements, bad luck and undoubtedly some poor performances, even the Stephen Kenny sceptics can now see the manager’s compass with this rookie international squad. And the fact that all 25,000 tickets were sold for last night’s friendly was a clear indication the Dubliner has the backing of the Irish public to continue in the job.

The Dubliner, whose contract is up for renewal next July, made five changes from the side that breezed past Azerbaijan in Baku last weekend.

In came Caoimhin Kelleher, Enda Stevens, Conor Hourihane, Jamie McGrath and Chiedozie Ogbene and out went Gavin Bazunu, James McClean, Josh Cullen, Adam Idah and Daryl Horgan.

They say there are no easy games at international level. Judging on the evidence of last night, Qatar might beg to differ.

This was a walk in the park for the Irish, something they were probably due given all the anxiety and stress of the last year and a bit.

The talk of the town was, of course, hat-trick man Callum Robinson.

Apart from an awkward press conference appearance before the World Cup Qualifier trip Azerbaijan, Robinson’s international week couldn’t have gone any better.

Criticised for revealing he hadn’t been vaccinated, despite contracting COVID19 on two different occasions that cost him several caps, the West Bromwich striker celebrated two goals in Ireland’s 3-0 win in Baku last Saturday. Last night he went one better.

It took him just 13 minutes to bag another brace against Qatar to put Stephen Kenny well on his way to claiming his first win on home soil as senior manager.

Robinson’s first goal after just three minutes was brilliantly worked, even if his effort took a deflection on the way into the Qatari net.

Down the left flank, the in-form striker lent the ball to Jeff Hendrick and played another wall pass with Conor Hourihane before unleashing a 20-yard bullet that found the back of the net.

Nine minutes later, the home side won a rare penalty when Jamie McGrath was tripped just inside the area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Whether Robinson was on penalties or not before the game, it was a prudent choice.

A skip and a jump and although the striker’s spot-kick didn’t find the corner of the net, his run-up sent visiting ‘keeper Meshaal Barsham the wrong way.

Two-nil Ireland after 13 minutes. Stephen Kenny could breathe it for probably the first time in his tempestuous reign.

Having the cushion of a two-goal advantage was completely different terrain, softer terrain, for Kenny who had been constantly under pressure until his side salvaged a late draw against Serbia last month and backed it up with a first competitive win against Azerbaijan last weekend.

Still licking their wounds from last weekend’s 3-0 friendly loss to Portugal, the visitors looked a threat once they beat Ireland’s high press but none of their efforts called Kelleher into action.

The Republic almost made it three five minutes before the break when Robinson turned provider and picked out his strike partner Chiedozie Ogbene with a brilliant cross from the left but the Rotherham man’s header came back off the crossbar.

If the visitors were starting to wilt before the break they were completely and utterly gone by the 54th minute when Robinson wheeled away celebrating a hat-trick, and it was probably his favourite of the night.

Hendrick, who is showing signs of an international revival, slid a lovely pass down the side of the Qatari central defence for Robinson to clip home.

Before last night’s friendly, Robinson had managed just one goal in 20 appearances but brought his goal tally to six over the last few days.

And to put more conviction on the scoreboard Shane Duffy nodded home Conor Hourihane's corner on 59 minutes. Things are looking a lot brighter under Stephen Kenny.

Still a work-in-progress, you can at least see where the affable Dubliner is going with this young group of players.

Republic of Ireland player ratings....

Caoimhin Kelleher: Winning just his second cap, Liverpool’s back-up keeper is likely to play a similar role at international level given Gavin Bazunu’s brilliant form. Handy night. 6

Matt Doherty: The out-of-favour Spurs man got some much-needed game-time over the past few days. Only given a half last night and was busy and inventive. 6

Enda Stevens: Making his first appearance since Ireland’s disappointing home loss to Luxembourg, the Sheffield United man got chalk on his boots and was typically composed in most of his work. 6

Shane Duffy: Never under pressure and allowed his central defensive partners Egan and Omobamidele to initiate attacks. Prolific from set pieces and grabbed his sixth headed goal for his country. 7

John Egan: Stayed up to try and steal a goal in the first half. The back three system is working well and Egan is vital to its success. Solid night. 7

Andrew Omobamidele: A fantastic prospect. Calm as they come. Drifts into midfield with ease and could actually make a career in the role. Super tackle in 45th minute to deny Qatar. Can be a mainstay of this team. 7

Conor Hourihane: A change of formation as well as Josh Cullen and Jeff Hendrick’s decent form has pushed him out of the starting team. Got a start last night and had his five iron out all night, picking passes, short and long but was given a ridiculous amount of space to operate in. 7

Jeff Hendrick: He might be in and out at Newcastle United but Hendrick is showing signs of an international revival. Still gives possession away too easily at times but was creative too and worked his socks off. 7

Jamie McGrath: Played in the hole behind Robinson and Ogbene. Impish but perhaps not as clever as a Wes Hoolahan in the role. Nevertheless won the penalty and knitted play well. 6

Callum Robinson: The West Brom striker grabbed a super hat-trick, the first time since Robbie Keane wore the green jersey. Should use the last two games as a springboard to greater things on the international stage. 8

Chiedozie Ogbene: A real livewire in attack and was unlucky with a first-half header not to add to his goal scored against Azerbaijan. Made way from Jason Knight after 69 minutes. 6


Cyrus Christie: Never lets Ireland down when called upon. Worked the right flank in the second half well. 6

Jason Knight: Some decent possessions. 6

Nathan Collins: Slotted in at the back in the closing stages. 5

Troy Parrott: Still in Stephen Kenny's eye-line. 5

James Collins: Not on long enough to be rated.

Harry Arter: Not on long enough to be rated.