The Season Ticket
Football | Duffy rescues late point for Ireland in Bulgaria
The Stephen Kenny era has begun with a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in the UEFA Nations League.
Shane Duffy scored an injury-time header from Robbie Brady's cross to earn a point for the Boys in Green after Bozhidar Kraev had given the hosts a 56th-minute lead at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia.
Matt Doherty won the battle to start at right back, with Duffy, John Egan and Enda Stevens completing the back four ahead of Darren Randolph.
James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick were named in the centre of midfield, with Callum O'Dowda, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly operating further forward.
while Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly were both handed starts in attack.
Duffy had Ireland's first chance of the game, forcing Bulgaria goalkeeper Georgi Georgiev into a save with a downward header from a free-kick.
Connolly then went close on the quarter-hour mark, dispossessing a Bulgaria defender before curling his effort wide of the post.
At the other end, Ireland had a lucky escape when Spas Delev managed to slip while in a great position.
Three minutes before half time, Doherty arrived at the back post but headed Hourihane's cross over the bar.
Late in the half, good work from Connolly and Hendrick set Sheffield United defender Stevens marauding down the left. His pull-back found O'Dowda, who couldn't steer his effort on target.
It remained scoreless at half time, though there were positive signs - and clear attempts to play the 'Kenny' way - in the opening 45 minutes.
Early in the second half, Connolly forced Georgiev into a smart save after being teed up by Idah as Ireland hunted for an opener.
It was Bulgaria, however, who took the lead 11 minutes into the second half.
Nedelev threaded the ball between Duffy and Egan to set Kraev through on goal, with the striker taking one touch before smashing the ball through Randolph's legs.
Ireland looked for an instant response as Connolly flashed a dangerous ball across goal at the other end. Egan tried his luck from distance, but his tame effort was easily saved by a grateful Georgiev.
Kenny turned to Robbie Brady for some creativity, introducing the Burnley midfielder for McCarthy with 20 minutes remaining.
Callum Robinson and Shane Long also came on to replace O’Dowda and Idah as Ireland struggled to carve out any meaningful chances.
With 10 minutes remaining, Bulgaria substitute Birsent Karagaren dragged an excellent opportunity wide.
The Boys in Green finally got their goal in the third of five minutes of stoppage time, and in traditional Irish form, it came from a set piece.
Brady's excellent cross was met with a powerful header from Duffy, which nestled in the bottom corner to draw the visitors level.
Ireland pushed for a second goal in the final two minutes of additional time, but were forced to settle for a draw in Sofia.
O'Dowda was named as man of the match after a lively display from the midfielder.
"There was a lot of good play but also some areas where we need improvement.," kenny said afterwards.
"We've only had three days.
"They caught us on the counter attack a few times.
"We had a lot of the play. We never surrendered belief and deserved an equaliser.
"We would have never deserved to lose that game and could have won it if we had taken our chances to go one up."
Next up for the Boys in Green is a clash Finland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.