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new faces do their job

MARTIN O'Neill promised that we would be more than pleasantly surprised about David McGoldrick and Cyrus Christie. He was right.

The two debutants lit up the Aviva last night with some sublime skills and provided a much needed antidote to all the racucous and disturbing events of the last while

After a week of cartwheeling headlines and emotions, the sight of a spread of new faces to watch and assess was more than welcome.

This may have been a November friendly, traditionally a game shoe-horned in to annoy people like Roberto Martinez, but for the first time in days, it was possible to focus on football to the exclusion of all things Roy Keane.


Better still, more than 30,000 came out for this game, one of the best crowds for a friendly since Manchester United opened the stadium.

Not that there wasn't a significant sideshow. The sight of the Gardai wading into the crowd in South Stand to pluck a banner focusing on FAI CEO John Delaney was remarkable.

Extra stewards lined the walkways beside the area were the supporters g roup YBIG usually congregate, presumably to deal with a planned protest against Delaney over the botched ticket allocation for the game against Scotland.

It was a sour note after a tonic start by Ireland. One of the new faces we hoped would give us reason to smile after some pretty difficult days, delivered a peach of an opening goal.

David McGoldrick was tipped as one who might just be the missing link in midfield and within seven minutes of the start, he made his mark.

A flick from a clearance by his Ipswich team-mate Daryl Murphy gave him the ball in the centre circle and spotting Anthony Pilkington galloping down the right, he threaded a magnificent pass through the middle.

Pilkington had work to do even if the ball matched his run perfectly and his sweet, sweet chip over Bill Hamid was a thing of beauty. McGoldrick took up station close the half-way line and came deeper still for the ball, keen to get involved and clearly more than able for the role.

But it wasn't all one-way traffic by any means and the USA caused a few early scares in the Ireland penalty area before a brand new defence found some purchase.

A steady build-up of pressure by Americans culminated in a corner and shot from Fabian Johnson in the 22nd minute which crashed off the post and went wide.

Ireland pushed forward again on the restart and maintained some level of superiority without threatening much until seven minutes before the break when the USA equalised.

Jozy Altidore crossed from the left, Chris Wondolowski cushioned a nice header towards the penalty spot and Mix Diskerud drilled the ball home from eight yards.

Worse almost followed when a snap shot from Altidore cannoned off the bar and was scrambled clear. O'Neill must have been happy to hear the half-time whistle.

Whatever he or Keane did it half-time, it did the job. The hesitancy and defensive nervousness which characterished the final ten minutes before the break disappeared and Ireland went on the front foot.

A flurry of tackles and quick passing wide on the left ended with Robbie Brady breaking into the box, shifting the ball to McGoldrick who teed up the return ball perfectly for the Hull City winger to rattle the net. This was more like it. Ireland poured forward with a will as the game opened up and suddenly Christie was making real inroads down the right, showing great composure and skill and best of all, whipping some decent crosses into the ganger area.


America pushed back however and Given had to make a fingertip stop substitute Bobby Wood from levelling again and that chance came in the middle of a decent spell of pressure for Jurgen Klinnsman's team.

O'Neill brought in reinforcements in Aiden McGeady, James McClean, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long, the latter replacing McGoldrick who got a deserved ovation as he left the field.

His replacement Shane Long hit the crossbar after a great solo run and in the 82nd minute, McClean wrapped up the game with a long range wallop which hit a defnder on the way to the net.

Brady wasn't finished however and when he drilled a fantsatsic free-kick into the top left-hand corner with four minutes left on the clock, it was the perfect way for him to finish the night.