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Debut demolition delights O'Neill

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16 Nov 2013 07:16:55

Debut demolition delights O'Neill

Martin O'Neill was thrilled to launch his Republic of Ireland reign with a convincing victory as his side turned on the style against Latvia.

The Republic cruised to a 3-0 friendly victory at the Aviva Stadium to delight O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane.

O'Neill said: "I am absolutely delighted, delighted with the performance and delighted with the result, obviously.

"I accept the fact that there will be sterner tests ahead, of course, and one on Tuesday night (against Poland), but it was nice to win, it was nice to play well, it was nice to get a few goals and I thought some of our play was terrific.

"I was concerned about the game beforehand, of course, but just getting that first goal was very important for us.

"Overall, I was delighted with the team, delighted with their attitude and delighted with the crowd's response."

O'Neill's evening was improved further by Greece's first leg play-off victory over Romania which means Ireland should be among the second seeds for the Euro 2016 qualifying draw.

He said: "If you tell me that that's good news for us, I'll accept it.

"I'm obviously happy with that if that's the case, but I think there will be a lot of teams in the third seeds who will be every bit as strong as we will be.

"But every bit of good news is fine."

If it was goals from striker Keane, Aiden McGeady and substitute Shane Long which ultimately won the day, it was the performance of the team, and in particular some of the key individuals in it which pleased O'Neill most.

James McClean burst on to the Barclays Premier League scene during the early weeks of his fellow Ulsterman's reign at Sunderland, and he showed something like that form in a green shirt after a frustrating spell on the international stage.

McGeady too, who thrived under O'Neill at Celtic but has often flattered to deceive for his country, was penetrative and capped a fine individual display with a deserved goal.

O'Neill, whose team will face a more difficult examination in Poland on Tuesday, said: "McClean's performance was excellent. He was given man of the match and I don't think anybody would have disagreed with that.

"He was rejuvenated, played with a bit of confidence, but I think he knows I have a bit of confidence in him.

"Of course, there will be once or twice when he will not play the right ball, but his desire to go and attack them was very evident. I thought he deserved that.

"It was a great to win, but there's a big task ahead of us on Tuesday night."

As so often in the past, it was Keane who set the ball rolling when, having earlier passed up a golden opportunity, he stabbed home from close range after McClean had helped on McGeady's 22nd-minute corner.

Ireland dominated throughout, but had to wait until the 68th minute for McGeady, who had already had a couple of sighters, to beat keeper Andris Vanins with a searing right-foot shot from distance.

Substitute Long wrapped up the win with 11 minutes remaining with a tap-in at the far post to complete a good night's work.

Asked how his assistant had enjoyed the evening, O'Neill replied: "You will be surprised about Roy and I think you will be pleasantly surprised about him.

"The players have really taken to him and he has been terrific, genuinely terrific around the place, really terrific."

Latvia boss Marian Pahars admitted his side had not been able to compete with a stronger outfit.

He said: "At the end of the day, that's the reality. It's not a big surprise.

"Of course we can play a bit better and we can concede less, but at the end of the day, it's two different level teams."


PA

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