Whelan: We are in good shape
Healing process continues as Ireland make it three clean sheets on the bounce
WHATEVER about the football, the surface was definitely of the agricultural variety.
But for Glenn Whelan, the fact that Ireland have finished a difficult international year in 2013 with three successive clean sheets is a positive as Irish football aims for better and brighter in 2014.
Whelan has been one of the key men in the Ireland side in the last five years and though he had to settle for a sub's role in last night's scoreless draw in Poznan, introduced for the last 15 minutes to replace clubmate Marc Wilson, the return to Poznan was enough to put a smile – of sorts – on his face as Ireland battled with a difficult surface.
"Three games unbeaten and three clean sheets now is a good record to have and a nice way to see out the year. These last two matches were only friendly games and people will say that's nothing to be shouting about, but a 0-0 draw with a good Poland side is a good result," says Whelan.
"I didn't play the whole game but I know how hard it was for the lads who started as they had to deal with the pitch, the state of the pitch made it very difficult.
"It was very bad, terrible. We trained on it the night before the game and it was as if cows had been on it all week.
"When you are up in the stands, or watching on TV, it doesn't look that bad but once you got out there on the pitch it was awful, it was cutting up under your feet."
Whelan also admitted that the Irish players had a strange feeling being back in Poznan, venue for two defeats at Euro 2012.
"It was odd being back here, it brought back memories of the Euros and we all know how bad that was for us. So to come back here, having lost to Croatia and Italy, and get something against a good Polish side is good, good for morale.
"The pitch played its part and made sure that it wasn't the greatest of games, for both sets of fans and the people watching on TV but I think we deserve credit for dealing with it.
"David Forde didn't have much to do, they had world-class players like Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski in their attack and we deserve credit for keeping them quiet.
"I know we didn't create many chances last night but overall the ten days with the new manager were great and I think everyone has been given a boost.
"Martin O'Neill has used his two games in charge to shake things up, with players rested (Forde, Whelan, O'Shea, Coleman) and others restored to the side (Hoolahan, Long, Stokes), changes that Whelan welcomes.
"When the manager came in the manager said he would give everyone a chance and he has made changes to back that up," he added.
"Everyone wanted to play as much as possible, and we wanted to win the two games. I don't think there is really such a thing as a friendly with Ireland.
"I know I want to win every game I play for my country, so a 3-0 win and then a 0-0 draw are not bad results. It's now a case of waiting until March for the next game, as the Ireland side put an end to a difficult 12 months.
"I wouldn't say that I am glad to see the year gone," Whelan said.
"We are disappointed that we didn't go further in the World Cup but with the new manager coming in everyone has a lift, we want to kick on and show what we really can do.
"The manager has time now to assess things, go and look at lads playing for their clubs and take it from there.
"He will put pressure on us by watching us at club level and we have to prove we have what it takes to stay in the squad," added Whelan.