Brendan Graham reporting from Celtic Park
Celtic and a Republic of Ireland XI played out an entertaining 2-2 draw for Scott Brown’s testimonial in front of a huge appreciative crowd at Celtic Park.
Martin O’Neill’s Ireland team were the quicker team to settle into the game and it was midfielder Alan Browne who put the Republic of Ireland in front after just two minutes. Browne was quickest to react to a sloppy Celtic clearance, took a quick look up and hit a powerful shot towards the far post and past De Vries in the Celtic to give Ireland an early lead.
James McClean and Sean Maguire linked up very nicely from early on with Maguire playing just behind Walters in attack and McClean out wide on the left.
Between them, they were involved in quite a lot of Ireland’s chances and play in the opening half. After the opening goal Maguire and McClean linked up on the left before Maguire attempted a through ball to Walters in attack but he just wasn’t quick enough to get on the end of it.
Shortly after, it was James McClean’s turn to try his luck at goal with Maguire turning provider. Maguire played a quick ball ahead of the incoming McClean who hit a hurried shot at goal and against the side netting.
In what is his last game for Celtic, Patrick Roberts was looking lively on the right wing and had the crowd on their feet with some lovely play down the right for the home side leaving Derrick Williams a lot to do in the opening period of the game.
Established players Griffiths and Sinclair were slowly starting to come into the game and have much more of a telling impact. Griffiths had Celtic’s first real chance of the game on twenty minutes weaving in from the right and testing Doyle in goal with a low shot at close range but the Irish goalkeeper stood tall and made a great save to keep the game at 1-0.
Just before half-time Leigh Griffiths had the ball in the back of the net with the equaliser for Celtic. Scott Sinclair went on a lovely run down the left before passing the ball ahead to Kouassi who did brilliantly to dance his way into the box and square the ball on a plate for Griffiths to slot the ball past Doyle and send the home fans wild.
The second half saw both O’Neill and Rodgers empty their bench and quite a few new faces getting a run out for the Republic of Ireland as Martin O’Neill begins looking ahead to the qualifiers starting in September.
There was plenty of loud roars of support and appreciation from the fans in the second half. One of the biggest of those came shortly after the second half started as club legend Henrik Larrson began his warm up along the touch line before gracing the Celtic Park pitch to rapturous applause on the hour mark.
Callum O’Dowda put Ireland ahead halfway through the second half. In his last contribution for the club in his last game, fan favourite Patrick Roberts scored the equaliser for Celtic three minutes later.
As the second half progressed, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Graham Burke was introduced as well as Matt Doherty, Conor O’Malley, Greg Cunningham, Enda Stevens and Callum Robinson by Martin O’Neill with McGregor, Tierney, Dembele and Larsson all brought on for Celtic.
Man of the hour and the special captain that everyone was there to see, Scott Brown was replaced after eighty seven minutes to a standing ovation and huge applause by everyone around the ground.
Following the game, there was a short chat with Brown who said his thanks to everybody from his team-mates to his manager to all of the supporters. The evening concluded with a lap of honour around the pitch from the double-treble champions with their three trophies that they will be holding onto for another season.
Celtic: De Vries, Hendry, Simunovic, Mulgrew (Larsson 60), Miller, Brown, Kouassi (Hendry 46), Johnston, Roberts, Sinclair, Griffiths
Republic of Ireland XI: Doyle (O’Malley 58), Coleman (Doherty 58), Egan, Lenihan, Williams (Cunningham 58), O’Dowda, Browne, Williams (Burke 58), McClean, Walters (Robinson 58), Maguire