Sunday 19 January 2020

Walters 'delighted' to fire opening salvo in morale-boosting victory

Walters: on target. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Walters: on target. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Liam Kelly

Jon Walters plundered his 13th goal in the green jersey, and despite his satisfaction at moving to seventh in the all-time scoring charts, he was left to rue the one that got away.

Walters, captain for the night, literally led from the front in a striker's role as Martin O'Neill's team worked their way into the game.

When he struck the first goal of the match in the 27th minute, Walters did so in spectacular fashion, smashing the ball past the despairing dive of Uruguay 'keeper Esteban Conde.

But how did he miss a gilt-edged opportunity set up by a deadly Robbie Brady cross that left him with an open goal in the 44th minute?

"Don't worry, I'll beat myself up about that more than anyone else. Look, I'm there to miss them, I'm there to put them away; I'm just delighted that I got the one before, and then Cyrus, a great goal from him.

"Then James comes on and scores a screamer, so we're delighted with the win, and how we won, but it's all eyes now on next week," said Walters.

Uruguay's 38th-minute equaliser by Jose Gimenez was a scrappy affair, helped by a Darren Randolph error, but the other two Irish goals by Christie and McClean sent the Irish fans home happy

Man of the match Harry Arter did his chances of playing against Austria a power of good by his energetic midfield display.

This was Arter's fifth cap and despite being singled out for the individual accolade, he was not about to shout the odds for the Austria match.

"I haven't thought about it too much yet. You always reflect on your performance a couple of days after a game.

"Good or bad, you always try to improve and hopefully when I look back over the game I'll be impressed," he said.

Elaborating on his process for evaluating the games in which he plays, Arter said: "In the past I've missed out on a couple of games through injury but I'm really pleased to be here now and hopefully I get another chance on Sunday.

"I never look at one game being bigger than another to be honest. Tonight will be as important to me personally as next week.

"For someone who hasn't played a lot of games, and doesn't have a shirt guaranteed in the team, there is no bigger game for me at the moment than this one tonight.

"I was pleased to get through it, for the team to get a positive result and hopefully I'll get another chance on Sunday."

The battle for places in central defence is interesting, as Derby County's Alex Pearce and Burnley's Kevin Long got a chance to showcase their form.

Pearce's clubmate Richard Keogh, veteran John O'Shea, and big Shane Duffy of promoted Brighton are the front-runners for the World Cup tie at the Aviva next Sunday.

Pearce appreciates the level of competition and was pleased to come on as a sub for Duffy in the 60th minute.

"There's competition all over the pitch. International football is no mickey mouse level. It's a very high level, the highest you can get.

"We know there's going to be competition for places but that's healthy for the squad, and that's only going to help us at the weekend against Austria and eventually, in the bigger picture, try to get to the World Cup.

"So as many players as the manager has available, the better for everyone," said Pearce.

Kevin Long was buzzing to get his first start at the Aviva in a prestige friendly.

He came on as a sub for John Egan against Mexico on Friday night, but the Uruguay experience was special. "The last few months have been brilliant. To make my home debut and win 3-1 against Uruguay, it couldn't have gone any better," said Long.

His home debut came at a price, but one which Long was willing to pay.

"It's my brother's wedding and everyone is flying out to Marbella tomorrow, so there was only a few mates here.

"The wedding was on Friday but they're flying out tomorrow. I won't get a chance to join them because I'll be training.

"Missing my brother's wedding and family holiday to play for my country is worth it."

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