James McClean, Ciaran Clarke and Jeff Hendrick were three Republic of Ireland players glad of an opportunity to remind Martin O’Neill of their capabilities at a packed Turner’s Cross, writes Ger McCarthy.
“It’s not nice to sign off with a defeat because we wanted to put on a show tonight,” commented James McClean.
“There weren’t too many positives apart from lads getting a few minutes under their belts and a bit of sharpness before heading to France. It has still been a great campaign, it was only a friendly tonight and I’d rather lose here than lose on June 13th. I’d take losing tonight as long as we get 3 points against Sweden.
“Every player selected wants to play in France and I’m no different. I want to play every minute and I can assure you everyone else does too. Hopefully, I’ve put a few thoughts in his (Martin O’Neill’s) mind tonight and come the first game, I will be selected.
“It is obviously going to be special if you are on the plane and gut-wrenching for anyone that misses out. There will be a few lads down tonight if they don’t make it but hopefully their time will come again.”
Man-of-the-match Ciaran Clark was delighted the Irish squad came through their final test without any additional injury concerns.
“Obviously the result is always a priority and we didn’t get the one we wanted out there tonight,” said Clark.
“I think we were very slow to get going but managed to pick it up a bit before the end. Some of the lads hadn’t played in a while so it was a good chance for them ahead of the tournament.
“No one picked up any additional injuries and will be available for selection. Everyone was trying to do their best while staying injury free. We are still waiting to see what the manager has to say inside the dressing room but everyone will be hoping and praying that they have done enough.”
FT: Republic of Ireland 1-2 BelarusMay 31, 2016
Derby County’s Jeff Hendrick was another Irish international desperate to make an impact against Belarus after an injury-plagued season.
“I’m not happy with the defeat but was happy to get the minutes out on the pitch,” commented Hendrick.
“I haven’t played much football in the last six months and know I can play a lot better. It was good to get the run-out down here in Cork but now it is time to get our heads on the Euros. I have just been trying to work as hard as I can to make sure I’m ready if the manager calls on me.”