Encouraging display emphasises the options available to new managerial team
This looked like a proper Republic of Ireland side sent out by people who know what Irish football is about
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill knows how to bring the best out of John O’Shea. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
So, plenty of valuable information banked by the new manager about his players, the backroom staff and his relationship with Roy.
This felt like a Republic of Ireland team sent out by a man who understands Irish football. Who understands what we are about. Because he is one of us – just like his assistant.
By the end, the Poles were in command, chasing a home victory and we needed the Irish substitutes to gel and get a hold of the game. That always happens in friendly matches.
Strong and clever touches from Glenn Whelan and James McClean got the team out of danger. John O’Shea also came in and emphasised his importance to Ireland in the upcoming European Championship qualifiers.
Nil-all in Poznan was an improvement on our last visit to this stadium. The passing statistics certainly improved.
It was obvious from the kick-off that this would be a vastly different second outing for the new regime than last Friday’s stroll.
Martin O’Neill did the expected and changed from the smaller front four used against Latvia with Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and Anthony Stokes bringing muscle to the attack. Walters came in off the right with Long as the lone striker while Stokes dropped deeper.
The initial shape was encouraging. In particular, it was worth looking at Stokes as a semi-striker. This was a big game for the Celtic man in that important role as we will probably use 4-4-1-1 for most away matches, I would suggest.
I would have preferred to see him get closer to Long. Nor was I overly impressed with his attitude when possession was lost – no point standing still for a few seconds, glaring at teammates – but he improved in the second half and did enough to merit another opportunity.
Wes Hoolahan got more joy in the same position against Latvia but that’s an unfair comparison because they were so poor.
The message conveyed to Stokes and many others as they go back to their clubs tomorrow is week to week form will keep them in the picture. That’s all a player wants to know really. Play well, get picked. God, it has taken us an age to get to that juncture. We already knew Long can play the lone striker role. He wasn’t sensational, and missed a chance on 65 minutes, but showed for every ball.
The raft of changes was as much to protect players like Marc Wilson, who took a knock, and James McCarthy, who was replaced on the hour. James McClean gave Aiden McGeady a well-deserved break. It seems McGeady will have a freer role in O’Neill’s team. He started on the left but the less rigid system allowed him drift onto the ball and more importantly into the box. O’Neill knows better than most how deadly he can be when allowed to seek space to isolate a defender.