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Fringe players prove worth

THEY are the B-specials who could prove to be very important as the Euro 2012 tournament goes on.

Ireland's starting line-up has been set in stone for some time so fringe players have to make do with the occasional cameo role here and there.

But last night in Budapest, a batch of second-half substitutes proved that they have something to offer the Irish side with Keiren Westwood, Stephen Hunt, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox in particular playing a part on a night when Ireland extended their unbeaten run to 14 games.

Walters and Cox tested Hungary's English-based goalkeeper Adám Bogdán - surely the long-lost twin brother of Paul McShane? - a number of times while, at the other end, Hunt pulled off a goal-line clearance seven minutes from time to deny Imre Szabics a goal.

Meanwhile, Westwood also earned his corn after appearing as a half-time substitute for Shay Given.

Westwood struggled to get games at Sunderland last season once he recovered from injury and looked shaky at times in the 1-0 win over Bosnia in Dublin, but he was razor-sharp in Budapest last night.


"I had a busy night, but they're the kind of games I like, I want to be involved and I was happy to play a role in getting a good result," Westwood told the Herald.

"I think the players who are squad players have to show their importance and value to the team whenever they get a chance, and I think all of the boys who came on last night did their jobs well and gave the manager food for thought.

"It was a night when all of the keepers did well, I made a couple of saves but Shay had some saves to make in the first half before he came off, and their keeper did really well, he impressed me a lot," Westwood said of Bolton Wanderers man Bogdán.

"Hungary were a very good side, they were very strong on the counter-attack and the moved the ball really well. It was a good test for us, it was end-to-end at times and an enjoyable game for the fans to watch.

"I enjoyed the game and hopefully I showed the manager that if I am needed at the finals at some stage, I can do a job.

"It's a fact of life for me with Ireland that I am behind one of the best keepers in the world in terms of the Irish squad, so I just have to bide my time, be patient and contribute what I can along the way," he added.