MARTIN O’NEILL’S SECOND game in charge took Ireland to Poland.
It finished goalless, but between a surprisingly commanding first half and a gritty defensive shift in the second, there was plenty to be positive about.
Here’s how we rated the Boys in Green.
David Forde – 7
Allowed himself to be shut down to easily when ready to clear in second half. Otherwise, little to fault.
Confidently claimed the first half crosses sent his way and, stood up well when Jakub Blaszczykowski tricked and teased his way into the area after half-time.
Stephen Kelly - 6
Bounced a free header over the bar when quicker reflexes may have delivered a goal. Was protected well by Jon Walters in front of him.
Sean St Ledger – 4
Ireland’s only goalscorer at Euro 2012. His return to Poland ended after just 30 fairly solid minutes. Ireland’s rhythm was disrupted by his departure.
Marc Wilson – 6
Almost played his way into trouble against Robert Lewandowski, but otherwise looked a solid option as a centre half.
Stephen Ward – 5
Understandably not seen quite so often in the attacking third as he was against Latvia. On the rare occasions he was isolated, he was able to make up ground and get a foot in.
Jon Walters - 6
Captain for the night, but was asked to perform a workmanlike role on the right wing to allow Aiden McGeady the freedom to attack. Nothing spectacular or pretty about it, but it just might do the job on tough continental assignments like this.
James McCarthy – 7
His presence is crucial in giving this Ireland side a fluidity. Worked tirelessly to be available to receive a pass. More than proved his worth to the O’Neill/Keane era in the 62 minutes he played.
Paul Green - 8
Like Walters on the wing, there was nothing pretty, it he can certainly be effective.
Performed his role of protecting the back four very well and also dovetailed nicely with McCarthy when Ireland were dominant in early stages.
Aiden McGeady – 7
Bright start, picking up from where he left off on Friday. Our most potent option in attack and able to provide an assured touch in his own half. Came off after the hour mark and it was no coincidence that Ireland were forced onto the back foot from there.
Anthony Stokes – 5
Caught in possession outside his own box which caused a brief moment of panic. Dropped deep off Shane Long and gave an extra option to pass to in advanced areas. For the most part though, he was ineffective.
Shane Long – 7
As ever, performed his role as an undersized target man dutifully and ran the channels. Tough job for little reward.
John O’Shea – 6
First touch was with his right hand after being caught flat footed. Slowly warmed into the game after that and helped Ireland withstand growing Polish pressure.
Alex Pearce – 5
Difficult to make an impact in a disjointed situation with substitutes disrupting flow of game, but didn’t put a foot wrong.
James McClean – 5
Precious few opportunities to attack, but did create Ireland’s second best chance with a cross that just evaded Long.
Kevin Doyle – 4
Centre forward as his side had backs to the ball. Role was restricted to chasing the ball.
Wes Hoolahan – 5
Made an effort to get himself on the ball and inject some pace into Ireland’s counter-attack play.
Glenn Whelan – 4
Replaced the injured Wilson provided an extra dogged defender when it was needed.