O’Neill Era Begins With Comprehensive Win


Ireland’s new managerial partnership of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane got their reign off to the best possible start last night as the boys in green beat Latvia 3-0 at Aviva Stadium.

Ireland got off to a solid start when the reinstalled James McClean, a firm favourite of O’Neill during his time at Sunderland, went close with a volleyed effort.

Former Celtic manager O’Neill was keen to employ a quick pass and move tempo and in doing so proved that this Irish team are more than capable of playing the beautiful game.

Another chance came soon after as Latvian goalkeeper Andris Vanins handled the ball outside his box, however his error came bore no problem as he saved an easy attempt. Another positive move yet no end product. However the writing was on the wall and it wouldn’t be long before Ireland broke the deadlock.

The deadlock was broke when the ever reliable Robbie Keane touched home Aiden McGeady’s cross to steal the headlines from his namesake who punched the air from his seat in the Irish dugout.  The goal was valid reply for Ireland’s dominance for the opening twenty-two minutes.

It seemed a second would follow soon after but the LA Galaxy striker spurned a great opportunity following some good play from the lively Wes Hoolahan and the returning Stephen Ward.

McClean had another golden opportunity to increase Ireland’s lead as he broke by two defenders but his shot went wide of the left hand post as Ireland headed into the break one goal to the good.

O’Neill’s predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni once claimed that there was no league in Ireland. However the new managerial duo have been keen to emphasise their commitment to the league and no fewer than eight players who featured in their first squad have played League of Ireland football.

The second half begun in the same fashion as the first half ended with Ireland employing a quick, high tempo game. O’Neill had set up well as his side created a host of chances throughout the game while also shutting down any chance Latvia had of creating one.

O’Neill and Keane looked delighted throughout the game with the way their new side were going about their business, with McClean and James McCarthy among the best players on display.

Within the last half hour of the game Ireland stepped up the tempo of the game, creating chances, however they were just lacking the final edge which would end Latvia’s hopes of a comeback. It wasn’t long either until this strength was shown again.

A rejuvenated McGeady, another player to have played under O’Neill at club level, had another  chance to extend the Irish lead but saw his effort saved by Latvian goalkeeper Vanins.

The Spartak Moscow winger wouldn’t have to wait long to get another sniff at goal and he made no mistake as he pounced on a misplaced Latvian pass before firing a cracking effort past Vanins from outside the box.

Former Shelbourne man Wes Hoolahan had another great chance as he found himself, with space, inside the box but fired his shot into the arms of a grateful Vanins, who was keeping Marian Pahars’ side within touching distance.

Two former League of Ireland players combined for the third goal as former Bohemians man Stephen Ward broke inside the box and smashed the ball across the face of the goal to afford ex Cork City striker Shane Long an easy tap in.

An excellent performance throughout handed Martin O’Neill’s team a handy 3-0 win in his first game as manager.

Hats off to O’Neill also for this formation, Robbie Keane has worked hard throughout the game as a lone striker while the return of Hoolahan will please many.

Andy Reid showed some spark when he came on, with the contingent of Irish wingers enjoying a fine outing against the Latvians with McClean taking home the Man Of The Match award.

Ireland now travel to Poland on Tuesday for their second game under the tutelage of O’Neill and Keane but they must wait until next September for their first competitive game as they attempt to lead their new charges to Euro 2016.

Ireland: Keiren Westwood, Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ward, Aiden McGeady (Andy Reid), Glenn Whelan (Paul Green) James McCarthy (Kevin Doyle), James McClean (Anthony Stokes) , Wes Hoolahan (Shane Long) and Robbie Keane (C) (Jon Walters)
Subs not used: David Forde, Sean St.Ledger, Alex Pearce, Stephen Kelly, Joey O’Brien and Rob Elliot.

Latvia: Andris Vanins, Vladislavs Gabovs, Nauris Bulvitis, Kaspars Gorkss (C), Vitalijs Maksimenko, Renars Rode, Juris Laizans (Alans Sinelnikovs), Ritvars Rugins (Aleksandrs Fertovs), Artis Lazdins, Valerijs Sabala (Danills Turkovs), Maris Verpakoskis
Subs not used: Aleksandrs Kolinko, Antons Kurakins,, Andrejs Kovajovs, Jurijs Zigajevs, Eduards Visnakovs, Germans Malins and Arturs Zjuzins.

Attendance: 32,700.

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