Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill immediately turned his attention to next year’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Scotland after seeing his under-studies deliver their lines to perfection.
A team featuring 11 changes to the one which lost 1-0 in Scotland on Friday night beat the United States 4-1 in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium to end the calendar year on a positive note.
However, despite seeing Hull midfielder Robbie Brady turn in a fine display from left-back and debutants David McGoldrick and Cyrus Christie shine, O’Neill remained very much focused on March’s clash with Group D leaders Poland in Dublin and the return against Scotland in June.
He said: “The qualifying games are the most important and everything else is a build-up to them, even including tonight.
“We scored four goals tonight and it was nice, and it was nice to regain momentum from Friday night. But the most important fixtures, again, are the matches that we have in 2015, so those are important for us.
“We have seven points on the board. It was disappointing not to have got something from the game on Friday, but it is not fatal. Regardless of the result on Friday, if we had got a point of out the game, we would have still been looking to try to beat Poland and Scotland.
“Those next two matches are of vital importance to us.”
Ireland got off to a flying start when McGoldrick combined with Anthony Pilkington to allow the Cardiff man to open the scoring with a deft seventh-minute finish, and although Mix Diskerud levelled before the break, Brady restored the home side’s lead within 10 minutes of the restart.
The United States, who had hit both the post and the bar during the first half, remained in the game until the latter stages when substitute James McClean’s deflected 82nd-minute shot finally gave the Republic breathing space and set the stage for Brady to seal the win with a fine 87th-minute free-kick.
O’Neill, who started Brady at the back in the absence of Stephen Ward, said: “He has things to improve on as a defender, he knows that himself, but he is an excellent footballer, a really excellent player. He’s got great attitude to it as well, and I was really delighted for him.
“Do you know, he was in such confident mood, I felt that he would score from the free-kick. They are easy words now, but I thought he would score from that, but for the second goal for him to be following up and to be on the edge of the penalty area and to score from the left-back position, it was great.”
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann was happy with elements of what he saw from his much-changed team, but admitted errors had cost them dearly.
He said: “Always at 1-0 and then getting back into the game and equalising it, you hope to get the lead, even before half-time – there were enough chances there and also right after half-time, we could have scored that second goal.
“They scored then the second and third goals.Individual mistakes cost you at this level, you can’t allow those type of mistakes defensively, you are not getting away with it, and that punished us.
“Then obviously, you want your younger players coming in and getting some minutes on that level and in that atmosphere and getting experience, and there’s always a risk that you might [concede] another one, which happened through a beautiful free-kick, no doubt about it.
“But we saw a lot of things, some good stuff, some not so good stuff and we will address that, obviously, with the guys.
“We have finished off a long year, 2014, which overall was a positive year.
“We are building and when you build a new cycle and you introduce new fresh players into the group, then there will be some growing pains along the way. That’s just normal.”