1. Wes Hoolahan
The Norwich midfielder was the standout performer for Ireland at the Aviva yesterday. After a frustrating season which saw his chances limited at Carrow Road, Hoolahan was at the heart of much that was good about Ireland’s play. It was he who provided the perfectly weighted ball for Jonathan Walters consolation goal.
At 32 years of age, Hoolahan is hardly a long term solution to Ireland’s creativity problems. However for the upcoming Euro campaign, should he see enough game-time at club level, he will be a valuable asset to Martin O’Neill.
2. Plenty of chances.
Hoolahan aside, there was a creative spark to the Irish play that was rarely evident under Trappatoni. Ireland should certainly have been ahead before Turkey’s opening goal, after Aiden McGeady’s inch-perfect through ball to Shane Long led to a penalty shout that was inexplicably waved away.
McGeady regularly dazzles out wide before failing to whip in an accurate cross. Yesterday though he caused the Turkish defence some real concern with his final ball. Twice James McClean could have done better with efforts resulting from a McGeady cross.
Ireland as a team seem more patient under Martin O’Neill, preferring to pass the ball sideways and backwards and wait for an opening rather than just hoofing the ball forward and hoping the strikers can get a head on it. Several times yesterday Irish players attempted defence-splitting passes which were just a little too far ahead of their intended targets. The accuracy might not be there yet, but that’s what this run of four friendly games is for. Ironing out the creases.
3. Far from the finished product.
While O’Neill put out quite a strong team yesterday, there are still some key players and exciting prospects to join up with the squad either for the remainder of these summer friendlies or ahead of the Euro campaign.
Robbie Keane is busy scoring goals in the MLS but it’s a given what he can do at this stage. Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle are other stalwarts who have just helped QPR attain Premier League status once more.
Most exciting however, is the prospect of seeing what Jeff Hendrick can do if given further opportunities in the Ireland set up. While he and Derby County team-mate Richard Keogh must be devastated following the Championship play-off loss to QPR, Hendrick’s performances for the Rams all season have earmarked him as a dynamic option in Ireland’s midfield.