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new faces do their job

MARTIN O'Neill promised that David McGoldrick and Cyrus Christie might one day knock our collective socks off. He was right and it took no time at all.

Robbie Brady had the same billing when he emerged from Old Trafford and he added his own stunning contribution to a mostly positive night with two fine goals, the second a luxurious curled free-kick which delivered Ireland's fourth goal and a knock-out blow to Jurgen Klinsman.

The two d├ębutantes lit up the Aviva last night with some sublime skills and provided a much-needed antidote to all the raucous and disturbing events of the last while.

After a week of cartwheeling headlines and emotions, a line-up of fresh 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.

SIGNIFICANT

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 where the supporters group YBIG usually congregate, presumably to deal with a planned protest 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.

This was the x-factor O'Neill hoped for and predicted and when he revealed in his post match interview that the Ipswich striker had almost no pre-season preparation during the summer, optimism flared even brighter than an already decent intensity inspired by a rattling win over the USA.

O'Neill stripped out his personnel from the defeat in Parkhead and put his bench on the pitch, featuring a brand new defence, a makeshift midfield and Daryl Murphy leading the line.

All eyes were on cGoldrick, who took up station close to the half-way line and came deeper still for the ball, keen to get involved, as well as Cyrus Christie, the Derby full-back touted as a potential understudy to Seamus Coleman.

into the frame

By the time the game ended, both men had propelled themselves right into the frame for Ireland's next Euro 2016 qualifier four months from now against Poland at the Aviva.

McGoldrick has certainly leap-frogged Wes Hoolahan on this performance and Robbie Keane may also find himself increasingly watching the opening blows of Ireland internationals from the dugout.

Chrstie also put down a significant marker, adapting easily to a new level and improving steadily as he did it. This lad can kick with both feet equally well and he presents an obvious alternative to Stephen Ward.

Defensively, Alex Pearce and Ciaran Clarke took some time to settle, as indeed did Robbie Brady in the left-full slot, but again, time and the confidence provided by some exciting attacking football worked wonders.

It must be said, America offered poor opposition. Apart from brief resistance which provided an equaliser for Mix Diskerud (try saying that name after a few pints) and the odd harum-scarum moment in the Ireland penalty area, their role on the night was to watch waves of very committed white shirts bearing down on them at pace.

McGoldrick and Brady combined cleverly to give Ireland the lead, James McClean came off the bench to make it three and Brady wrapped it up beautifully with the best dead ball goal you'll see anywhere for the rest of the season.

It was enough to produce a glimmer of a smile from O'Neill. He's had a rough enough week and he needed a boost.

He has a lot to contemplate in the weeks and months ahead before we return to D4 for Poland.


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