The Republic of Ireland and Wales served up a stalemate in their UEFA Nations League encounter at the Aviva Stadium, with Stephen Kenny's side finishing the game with ten men. 

James McClean received his marching orders with 10 minutes remaining following two rash challenges within two minutes, which resulted in the home side defending rather than attacking in the closing stages. 

Shane Long had Ireland’s best chance of the game, heading over the bar when unmarked early in the second half but both sides largely cancelled each other out.

Covid casualties, once again, dominated the pre-match discussion, with the Ireland squad decimated by five players getting ruled out as a result of one positive test. 

That no doubt required another late reshuffle by the manager, who found himself with just 18 players to choose from, including three goalkeepers. By the time the team was named, Kenny was left with only one defender on the bench. 

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There was a slow sauntering start in the autumn afternoon sunshine, with both sides easing into this Nations League affair, but it was Ireland who offered most urgency, gradually gaining pace, pressing the ball high up the pitch. 

Jayson Molumby was one of the standout players in those early stages, showing for everything and reading the midfield movement without really breaking stride. 

And the composure was there in green from the very start with a neat move featuring Enda Stevens, James McClean and Conor Hourihane exemplifying the philosophy of the new international manager.

And Ireland must have been encouraged as their pressing game was forcing the visitors to look long for options as Ryan Giggs' side were unable to pass their way out from the back. 

Ireland's first look at goal came in the 18th minute as Robbie Brady had a pop from distance following some good build-up play from Jeff Hendrick and Stevens. The shot, alas, was blocked and never threatened. 

The first corner of the game proved encouraging for Ireland as Brady’s set-piece delivery found the head of Shane Duffy, however, the stand-in captain could not work the keeper. 

Wales best and only threat in the opening half of the first period came in the 23rd minute as Aaron Ramsey gleefully danced around a smattering of Irish shirts but eventually ran into a green wall on the edge of the box. 

Kevin Long was down twice inside two minutes and was eventually called ashore, nursing an eye injury following a close encounter with big, barrelling, centre-forward Kieffer Moore. 

The Burnley man would have to depart, forcing the Ireland manager to use up his only defender on the bench. Cyrus Christie went over to right-back with Matt Doherty slotting into the left side of the centre of defence. 

The change appeared to wake Wales from their slumber as Harry Wilson stung the hands of Darren Randolph following a neat one-two with Ramsey. 

But Ireland quickly regrouped and Christie looked intent on making an immediate impression, flying up the right flank, linking well with Brady, who was starting to look much more akin to the player of four years ago. 

Ireland had a brief scare inside their own box as Randolph came to gather a corner, but then dropped the ball with Ethan Ampadu lurking with intent. The two players collided going after the loose ball and the Ireland keeper got the benefit of the doubt from the referee who blew for a free-kick. 

The best chance of the half fell to the ever-influential Brady in the 33rd minute after he read and then intercepted a poor pass inside from Harry Wilson. Forty yards from goal, Brady raced at the retreating Wales defence, with Shane Long providing a clever decoy to his right. 

The Burnley man opted to go it alone and let fly from just outside the box, attempting to whip the ball into the top left corner. The shot flew just wide of the upright.

Brady’s influence was summed up by a majestic cross-field pass over the Wales defence and perfectly into the path of old pal Jeff Hendrick. Nothing resulted in the Ireland move, but it showed the confidence that was really starting to show in this Ireland team. 

Wales enjoyed a short spell of control five minutes before the break, but the best they could muster was a Ramsey shot that was blocked just outside the box by Duffy – claims for a handball fell on deaf ears. 

And it was Ireland who finished the half on the front foot, while playing some fine football right across the pitch and deep into the Wales half. 

Two late chances came to nothing as first Christie slapped one over the bar from outside the box, before Duffy lunged at a free into the box, but could not direct it on target. 

The visitors looked energised after the break, and camped inside the Ireland half for the opening five minutes, but the only concern from an Irish perspective occurred as Christie gave the ball away on the edge of the box.  Wales, however, were unable to capitalise. 

Ireland did get their game going in the 55th minute and had a golden opportunity to open the lead following a fine counterattack, which spread from right to left with Christie, Hendrick, McClean and Stevens all involved. 

The ball in from the left by Stevens put Long through on goal, but the Southampton striker could not direct his free header on target from no more than 10 yards out. The ball easily cleared the crossbar when the forward really had to test the keeper, at least. 

Moments later a Brady cross from the right had Wayne Hennessey second-guessing himself as the ball angled in towards the far top corner, eventually dropping just wide of the post. 

Giggs made some changes as Ireland were maintaining their momentum and the visitors did start to play their way back into the game, Ramsey making room for a shot that was deflected wide in the 72nd minute. 

The Ireland bench was also utilised approaching the final 15 with Daryl Horgan and Sean Maguire replacing Brady and Long. 

And Ireland were again probing inside the visitors penalty area as Horgan and Molumby combined, which caused a moment’s chaos among the Wales back line. 

The new man in for Ireland was making a real presence, coming in off the right flank and Horgan then enjoyed two looks at goal from close range as he latched onto a long ball in from the right. 

The initial header was repelled right back to Horgan’s feet but his snapshot then sailed over the bar. 

Ireland may have been building the momentum heading into the final 10 minutes of the game, but they would eventually end up defending for a draw after McClean saw red in the 83rd minute. 

Two rash challenges by the Stoke City man, first on Connor Roberts in the 79th minute and then on Ampadu four minutes later and the referee had no hesitation showing either card for what was clearly reckless play. 

In between cards, Hendrick managed a shot on target, but it was easy for Hennessey; remarkably Ireland’s only effort on target throughout despite their large periods of dominance. 

David Brooks had a shot for the visitors in the 86th minute, but it was a straightforward save by Randolph who, like his counterpart, enjoyed a relatively easy outing. 

Ireland could not summon up any late pressure as they spent the majority of the four added minutes defending their goal, and Stephen Kenny’s regime remains without a win after four games.

To Finland on Wednesday. 

Ireland: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, Kevin Long (Cyrus Christie 25), Shane Duffy (capt), Enda Stevens; Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, Jayson Molumby (Josh Cullen 90); Shane Long (Sean Maguire 74), Robbie Brady (Daryl Horgan 74), James McClean

Wales: Wayne Hennessey; Connor Roberts , Joe Rodon, Ethan Ampadu, Ben Davies; Harry Wilson (Neco Williams 67), Aaron Ramsey, Joe Morrell, Matthew Smith (Dylan Levitt 67), Daniel James (David Brooks 77); Kieffer Moore

Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos (GRE)

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