True, the opposition may have been almost San Marino-esque in their feebleness, but last night’s Latvia victory was still a cause for genuine optimism as flair players (remember them?) like Wes Hoolahan, Aiden McGeady and deserved Man of the Match James McLean enjoyed some of their finest moments in an Ireland jersey.
Seamus Coleman wasn’t just allowed but encouraged to cross the halfway line and while not the 23-year-old Martin O’Neill had jokingly spoken of wanting on Thursday, Robbie Keane put in a shift that was as energised as it was focused.
A Movember observing Shane Long – only Jon Walters bettered him for upper lip growth – has been having a frustrating time of things at West Brom but scored one of the best goals we’ve seen at The Aviva recently, and there was a huge cheer for Andy Reid as he ended the international exile that was so unfairly imposed on him during the Trap era. Add in the future deployment of Robbie Brady and Darron Gibson in a system where the coach wants the players to express themselves, and come next September Ireland should be a potent attacking, which is something we rarely were under Giovanni.
“I was delighted with the performance, but there will be sterner tests ahead,” said a beaming Martin O’Neill afterwards. “We played some lovely football and the crowd were terrific. It was an exhilarating evening for us.”
The three goals scored, none conceded wasn’t the only progress made last night at The Aviva with the 35,000-strong crowd favouring the singing of Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ over the dreaded ‘Fields Of Athenry’, and An Emotional Fish’s ‘Celebrate’ getting a half-time run out alongside former St. Patrick’s Athletic man Paul Osam who was the Airtricity Legend of the Night.
Your correspondent committed the schoolboy error of being the only person in the press-box to join in with the Mexican Wave, though had enough savvy to realise that doing The Poznan is not what’s expected of a serious sports journalist.
Donning a hi-vis yellow photographer’s jacket for the night was Graham Keogh whose gallery of shots can be viewed at
With England getting spanked 2-0 at Wembley and France receiving their World Cup comeuppance against The Ukraine – Thierry Henry, your garcons took a hell of a beating etc. etc. – it was a satisfying evening all-round for the Ireland faithful.
For a full dissection of Martin ‘n’ Roy’s winning debut see Foul Play in our next issue of Hot Press out this Thursday.
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