Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Hoolahan and Ward revitalised by fresh start

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

WES Hoolahan and Stephen Ward were frozen out in the latter stages of the Trap era but they are enjoying the warmth and passion of the new Irish set-up under Martin O'Neill.

Of course it's just one game, and as O'Neill cautioned earlier in the week, not everyone will be happy because he won't play every player.

But, for now, it's happy days for the two ex-League of Ireland men, and, for Manchester United fan Hoolahan, the Roy Keane influence is a bonus.

"Roy Keane is a legend here in Ireland, and I supported Man U," he said. "To work with Roy is just great. But for me the main thing is getting minutes on the pitch. I felt we played really well and passed the ball well.

"It was a good win. The formation suits me. I like to play in the hole in the pockets between midfield and the striker, and get on the ball. The tempo was a lot different to before. We have something to build on. It was good to get off to a winning start, and hopefully we can continue on from here."

Ward also enjoyed his return to the side after a year's absence. "To get back into the squad was great and to get a run tonight was pleasing," he said. "On the whole it's been a good start to the week for us as a squad with a good performance on the night.

"To score three goals at home was great, and we could have scored more. To keep a clean sheet is always pleasing. There were a lot of positives there."

Meanwhile James McCarthy forgave John O'Shea for preventing him from opening the scoring. McCarthy's piledriver looked certain to hit the net but O'Shea couldn't get out of the way in time.

"Yes, John blocked it, didn't he? But the main thing was that we played it out from the back from the start today, which I found very positive and we got a good result," said McCarthy.

O'Shea, who knows all about O'Neill from his days with Sunderland, wasn't surprised that the manager and his assistant Roy Keane injected a new positivity to the squad.

"It was what we needed, a clean sheet and a couple of goals. It's Latvia at home and we expected to win comfortably, and we did that," he said.

"The manager told us to go out and win the game and keep a clean sheet, but also to enjoy it. The crowd turned out in impressive numbers for us and it was good to give the new manager a good start."

Shane Long plundered his 10th goal in his 41st international to press his claims for a regular place. "I've been lucky through my career, I've had some very good managers and hopefully I can impress this one and push my name in for starts in the games to come," said Long.

Irish Independent

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