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'Exhilarating' first night for Martin O'Neill but new boss warns of tougher tests ahead

Ireland outclassed Latvia at the Aviva Stadium.

Image: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

STEVE STAUNTON WATCHED tonight’s game at the Aviva Stadium from the sidelines in his role as a Sky Sports pundit.

And the one-time Boys in Green boss will know that a 3-0 home win on your first night at the helm with Ireland, does not guarantee success.

Martin O’Neill will hope to do better than Staunton during his reign, but he was quick to acknowledge that Ireland will face tougher nights in D4 and elsewhere.

“I’m delighted. Delighted with the team, delighted with the performance. But there are sterner tests ahead of course — we know that — but it was nice to win, we played some really lovely football as well and the crowd were terrific. So it was an exhilarating game for us,” he told Sky afterwards.

O’Neill instructed his side to press high up the pitch and the tactic paid rich dividends.

“There were a number of things,” he explained. “[The] first goal is very, very important regardless of how you set up and we got that. And then I thought interestingly for the next 10-15 minutes of the game I thought we played a lot of balls in front of them, without actually causing them too many problems. But when we got back down to it again, we were absolutely fine. Second goal of course helps immensely and third goal was brilliantly worked and we could have scored a few more.

“But we’re all delighted with the team and as you mentioned earlier, we tried to press a wee bit further up the pitch so those players who can play — and there are definitely one or two can do that — wouldn’t have that far to go to the opposition’s goal.  But overall, delighted with the team.

One of O’Neill’s former charges at Sunderland was singled out for praise.

“I thought it was an excellent team performance. James McClean obviously was man-of-the-match from whoever’s picked it and I wouldn’t have disagreed with that. I thought he was absolutely brilliant all evening. And there were a number of performances that were terrific; too many to mention,” he added.

What did you think?

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