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'It was an unbelievable feeling' - Jason Knight keen to chase new goals after Ireland net gain

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Ireland's Jason Knight celebrates scoring their third goal against Andorra. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

Ireland's Jason Knight celebrates scoring their third goal against Andorra. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

Ireland's Jason Knight celebrates scoring their third goal against Andorra. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Inpho

It was all Knight on the right. Belatedly.

Ireland’s toil in Andorra might have been alleviated much earlier had Cabinteely native Jason Knight’s first-half cross been converted from easily scorable range when presented on a plate for James Collins, but a diffident header reflected both individual and collective struggle.

It was only after the team’s youngest outfield player, Troy Parrott, seized the listless evening by the collar did his team respond, Knight roaring into the game, converting a header from Daryl Horgan’s cross to claim his maiden international goal before returning the favour for the ex-Dundalk man to claim his.

It was notable that the team’s lesser, young lights assumed responsibility for rescuing Stephen Kenny’s side from a slippery slope by producing a welcome late avalanche in this nation of skiers.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” says the 20-year-old. “It’s something I’ve dreamt of for a long time now and for it to come so soon was a great feeling for me. “It was only right for me to set him up as he set me up. Most importantly, it was a great win for the country and something we can build on.”

Featuring on the right side, where he has not played all season in a Wayne Rooney side who only escaped Championship relegation on the final day, Knight befitted Irish turmoil preceding their shock concession.

Within a midfield devoid of movement and purposeful passing, Knight was not alone in having difficulty as Ireland’s training ground preparations failed to materialise.

“He scored six goals playing on the right in the previous season for Derby,” noted Kenny. “He’s not played there a lot there this year so it’s not necessarily his natural position.

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“There was a big difference between him in the first and second halves. He played very wide in that first half, and we needed him to come narrower and leave that corridor for Matt Doherty.

“He was taking up massive space, we needed him to come in and link the play and he did that brilliantly in the second half.

"He has incredible stamina and an ability to keep going and he got stronger the game went on.”

Despite his initial discomfort, the player who has shone through the age grades for Ireland responded to the manager’s interval intervention and became a Knight in shining armour.

“We needed to lift it through the gears, we were a bit static and forcing it at times and I think in the second half we sort of calmed down and got more control in the game. Obviously they scored but after that we sort of took control and finished really, really strongly.”

Asked to elaborate whether Kenny was irked by either the surfeit of either long balls or sideway passing, Knight conceded both had been an issue.

“It was both, I’d say. Just forcing it, little things, keeping it simple. I think we got right back to that, especially in the second half. I enjoyed it, playing on the right.

"It’s something I’m not necessarily used to, but when the manager wants you to play in that position, that’s what he expects you to do, put in good deliveries and try to help the lads score.

“The gaffer talked to me and I was okay with it, because I wanted to play. So it was great to get the opportunity to even be on the pitch and hopefully I repaid that with my performance.

“Obviously it was difficult at times to get on the ball in the first half, it was tight and condensed. But as you say, in the second half I came into it and got more on the ball.”

Knight’s achievements will have resonated amongst a family who are all steeped in football and will have particularly encouraged his father, Paul, who suffered a heart attack in March and had Jason’s brother, Kevin, to thank for saving his life after conducting emergency CPR.

“Yeah, he’s gone through a bit of a hard time recently, but hopefully that will give him a good night now,” Knight smiled.

And, as one of the players typifying the management’s stuttering stylistic shift, Knight hopes that, although the fitful performance and dubious opposition may have offered unreliable evidence, the simple fact of a morale-boosting win may offer all a turning point.

“I don’t think it can be underestimated how important it is to win for your country no matter who that’s against.

“I’ve been in positions like that before at club level when we went behind and it’s something where you just need characters and people to step up. We’ve scored some good goals and then we’ve kicked on.

“If we’re in the team we’re expected to perform and step up when the time is right and that’s always been the case.

“It’s a transition and that can take time but this will hopefully be a catalyst for us moving forward and putting in good performances.”

The challenge for player and squad is to back it up.


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