Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland play out scoreless draw with Hungary in Budapest
By Daire Walsh
In front of a largely partisan home crowd of 14,000 at the Szusza Ferenc Stadion in Budapest this evening, the Republic of Ireland senior men’s side played out a scoreless draw with Hungary in an international friendly.
Due to the relaxation of restrictions in the Central European country, the Irish players on show were playing in front of mass spectators for the first time in 15 months.
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny
Following a 4-1 victory over Andorra last Thursday, this was expected to be a major step-up in quality. Hungary will be competing in Euro 2020 - their opening game against defending champions Portugal is a week from today - but Tallaght native Stephen Kenny will be more than happy with his side’s general level of competitiveness over the course of the 90 minutes.
For the fourth international in succession, Firhouse teenager Gavin Bazunu (formerly of Shamrock Rovers) was named between the sticks for the Republic of Ireland.
Templeogue’s Dara O’Shea has established himself as a firm favourite under Kenny and he was selected alongside Shane Duffy and John Egan in the Irish back-three.
It could have been a dream start to the action for the visitors, had Egan’s header off an early Conor Hourihane delivery not rebounded off the crossbar.
Hungary shaded possession in the opening period, but found clear-cut opportunities hard to come by.
That said, Bazunu did produce a fine stop from opposition striker Ádám Szalai on 39 minutes to ensure the teams were on level terms at the break.
When the action resumed, Bazunu had made way for Liverpool netminder Caoimhin Kelleher for the latter to make his senior international debut.
He got a strong hand to a Szalai snap shot 10 minutes after the restart, while his former club-mate Adam Bogdan denied Adam Idah at the opposite end on the third-quarter mark.
Hungary ramped up the pressure in the closing minutes, with Kelleher forced to turn away goal-bound strikes from Szalai and his namesake Attila.
Lively Irish substitute Chiedozie Ogbene also hit the side-netting at the end of normal time, but the tie ultimately ended in a stalemate.