“It’s brilliant to learn from such a football great” – James McCarthy

Healthy “buzz” of excitement around the ground and in the dressing room

Republic of Ireland’s James McCarthy during last night’s friendly. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Republic of Ireland’s James McCarthy during last night’s friendly. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 01:00


James McCarthy has been reluctant to reveals what it is Martin O’Neill and, more pertinently, Roy Keane has been whispering in his ear all week, but on the evidence of his performance against Latvia, it’s been working.

The Everton midfielder gave the sort of performance Irish fans have been crying out for some time, and even though it came against very modest opposition, there appeared to be an swagger about the former Wigan midfielder that is long overdue.

“Obviously he spoke to me during the week, he was brilliant,” said McCarthy of his the new assistant manager Keane. “It’s brilliant to learn from such a football great.”

The net result was a 3-0 win and healthy “buzz” of excitement around the ground and in the dressing room.

“It’s good,” said the midfielder afterwards, “a good result for us. We got the ball down and passed and we were deserved winners.”

Perhaps wisely, he did not use the opportunity when asked to identify what was different from the Giovanni Trapattoni era. “We just wanted to get the ball down and pass it. I think it was similar obviously but as I say, it was a good team performance. We got the ball down and passed, and as I say, there’s a good buzz about the place.”

‘Passing the ball’
He added: “If we’re passing the ball, it suits me and I’m enjoying it.”

McCarthy might have opened the scoring in the early exchanges but his left-footed volley cannoned of John O’Shea in the Latvian box. He’s fine with that, the bottom line is what counts. “It would have been a dream start but these things happen. It’s about the team. As a squad we’re looking strong. It’s very positive.”

The youngster admitted it was disappointing the side had to wait until September for the next competitive game but added that excitement around the place is “brilliant to see”.

His clubmate Séamus Coleman put in his own mature performance and looked every bit a captain in the making marauding down the right flank form full-back. “I thought we played well and thankfully, being a defender we kept a clean sheet.”

That statistic never looked in danger, in truth, but at the other end Coleman posed a constant threat and got in behind the defence on a number of occasions before laying on the third for Shane Long.

“Yeah, it’s something as a fullback I like to do, get forward as much as I can. I got forward at a good time and Jonny (Walters) played me in and thankfully Shane got the goal.”

He too declined to compare the previous regime and insisted he did not necessarily have more licence to run on, but the Killybegs man clearly enjoyed his night’s work. “Yeah it was very positive and I think everyone had a bit of spring in their step, everyone was trying to impress the two of them (O’Neill and Keane).

‘Important game’
“I think we’ve worked well all week we’ve got another important game coming up, I know it’s only friendlies, and it’s only short term now, but it’s a long way away the Euros. That’s what we are all aiming for and we are starting to get a team together now.”

“It was nice to get minutes on the pitch,” admitted Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan, who played a mischievous role behind goalscorer and captain Robbie Keane for 70 odd minutes. “We played really well, passed the ball well. It was a good win.

“The formation suits me, playing in hole and in the pockets – getting on the ball . The crowd got behind us because the tempo was a lot different and it’s something to build on.

“It was good to get off to winning start. Hopefully it continues, hopefully we’ll show him what we’re capable of and keep progressing.”

Keane, whose goal preceded Aiden McGeady’s strike, can play for some time yet, added Hoolahan. “Robbie has an incredible goalscoring record, the way he gets into the box and scores – he can play until he’s 40.”