Ireland, Scotland Set For Matchup Of The Ages


Any time two nations on the British Isles go head to head, it’s considered a pretty big deal.  This time, it is even more so.  Both Ireland and Scotland have not met on the pitch since 2011 in an exhibition tournament, and not in a qualifier since 1987.  Not only that, but with the expanded European Championship format, both have a good shot at making the tournament.

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Ireland are currently sitting pretty in Group D 2nd place after victories at Gibraltar and Georgia, not to mention garnering a stunning away point vs Germany (maybe they’re just really good vs. teams that begin with G…). Scotland is lagging behind in 3rd after a loss to Germany currently, but that could all change today in front of what is expected to be a thunderous crowd at Celtic Park.

Scotland and Ireland games are always interesting due to the familiarity of the players participating.  While they’ve only met a handful of times in the past 30 years or so on the international level, players on Scottish and Irish national teams constantly are playing each other across all facets of European football.  Most, if not all, Scottish and Irish players eligible for call ups to the National Team play in the English Premier League, League Championship, League One, or the Scottish Premiership.  As a matter of fact, between both teams only one player plays his club football outside of England, Scotland, or Wales: Irish skipper Robbie Keane.  Scottish giants Celtic, whose home stadium will play host to Friday’s match up, tends to have hordes of Irish supporters as well as players from both nations.

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Both clubs have 3 players apiece on Championship side Derby County, as well as four players between them on the aforementioned Celtic as well as on Premier League’s side Hull City and Everton.  This match turns teammate against teammate, while temporarily uniting some enemies and further deepening the rivalries of players who are opponents regularly in league play.  Example: Scottish striker Steven Naismith is bound to butt heads with Everton teammates Aiden McGeady Darron Gibson and Seamus Coleman several times over the course of the game.

The match is equally as intriguing for political purposes, as both are islands on the British Isles who aren’t exactly thrilled with their association to the UK.  While most of Ireland as achieved independence, Scotland still remains under the crown after a referendum for Independence by the people of Scotland a short while ago ended with the decision to remain under British rule.  So while there is a considerable amount of respect and empathy between the two sides, a hint of jealousy exists with Scotland’s more independence-leaning factions, while the Irish often sympathize with Scotland’s struggle for autonomy.

As far as the products on the pitch go, Scotland and Ireland have both been a relative slump in the past 10 years or so.  Scotland has only qualified for the Euros once, while they haven’t made the World Cup since 1998.  Ireland appeared in Euro2012 but was eliminated after three quick group stage losses.  Neither has qualified for the World Cup in the last decade.

Scotland will look to get  Stephen Fletcher and the aforementioned Naismith into one on one situations against an Irish defense led by the 100 times-capped John O’Shea but otherwise consisting mostly of Championship players and Premiership bottom dwellers.  In the midfield, the Scots will look to Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher to make plays and disrupt the play Ireland’s depth at that position.

For the Green Army, they will have plenty of scoring options from the legend Keane, as well as Shane Long who is in good form for Premier League Table-toppers Southampton after netting twice and vs. Leicester.  They could prove deadly against Scotland’s defense which only features one Premier League defender, Hull’s Andrew Robertson.  Ireland has been exceptional in their ability to score from all around, and a couple goals from a midfielder or defender are never out of the question if for some reason their forwards prove no avail.

With two sides evenly matched and coming from the same background, Ireland and Scotland is poised to be a match that will be remembered for years to come.  The match airs at 2:45 Eastern Time in the United States, available for stream at and will air on delay at 5:45 ET on ESPN Deportes.