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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019
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O'Neill singles out widemen McClean and McGeady for praise

The Ireland manager had good things to say about two players he knows well after his first win last night.

McGeady celebrates scoring last night.
McGeady celebrates scoring last night.
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

TWO PLAYERS WHO have Martin O’Neill to thank for progressing their respective careers repaid the new Ireland manager with stand-out displays last night.

Aiden McGeady was handed his senior debut by O’Neill as an 18-year-old at Celtic back in 2004. Against Latvia, he started wide on the right and scored just his third international goal for Ireland as well as delivering the corner for Robbie Keane’s opener.

On the opposite flank, James McClean caused all sorts of problems with his direct running. At Sunderland, he was given an opportunity by his fellow Derry man O’Neill two years ago and, now at Wigan Athletic after falling out of favour with Paolo Di Canio, looks to have rediscovered the confidence which saw him earn so many plaudits when he burst onto the scene.

Ireland’s last outing witnessed  caretaker Noel King go with Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes on the wings while Glenn Whelan got the nod in an unfamiliar role on the right side of midfield in the previous fixture away to Germany.

Albeit against weak opposition, McClean and McGeady both shone in their natural positions here.

“McClean was excellent,” O’Neill said at his post-match press conference. “He was named man-of-the-match and I don’t think anyone disagrees. He looks rejuvenated and played with confidence. He knows I have confidence in him.

“One or twice he won’t play the right ball but the desire to go and attack is very evident.”

McGeady found the back of the net with Ireland’s second for what is his first international goal in two years. O’Neill joked:” I said to him in the dressing room… I didn’t know this but I said you haven’t scored in 27 matches and he said it was actually 47. Typical McGeady comment.”

“But he is pleased with the goal and his input in the game. Aiden sometimes loses the ball and decides to walk back rather than trot, unlike McClean. But we forgive him tonight.”

O’Neill admitted he had been nervous going into the first game of his international career but hid it well as he looked a calm presence on the sideline. He is well aware they will meet stronger sides in the coming months but appeared genuinely happy with the victory and the reception he and the team got by the 37,1oo present.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the performance and the result. I accept to have sterner tests ahead and one on Tuesday. But it was a nice win, we played well and it was nice get a few goals.

“Some of the play was terrific. Getting that first goal was very important for us. Interestingly I thought after the goal we played the next 10 minutes in front of them with lots of passes without going anywhere. But I’m delighted with their attitude.”

Wes Hoolahan also came in for some praise from the manager and the Norwich schemer confirmed he won’t feature in Owen Heary’s tribute match this week as Ireland train tomorrow morning before departing for Poland on Sunday.

“O’Neill introduced six substitutes in the final 17 minutes and confirmed that he will make a string of changes for Tuesday’s game.

“We will change the team around. I wouldn’t want to walk away after Poland and find out someone didn’t get on the field. (Third choice goalkeeper) Rob Elliott is the exception as he knows the two lads are ahead of him. I will change the goalkeeper on Tuesday.”

Long hopes first impression will keep him in O’Neill’s plans

Manager report: How did Martin O’Neill get on in his first game in charge?

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Ben Blake

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