Republic of Ireland v Latvia - 5 reasons to be cheerful

Ireland warmed-up for Monday's Euro 2024 qualification opener against France with a hard-earned 3-2 victory over the Latvians on Wednesday.
Republic of Ireland v Latvia - 5 reasons to be cheerful

A WIN'S A WIN: Chiedozie Ogbene of Republic of Ireland, centre, celebrates with teammates Evan Ferguson and Mikey Johnston after scoring his side's third goal during the international friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Latvia at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Midfield auditions

Registering a welcome victory, albeit against a Latvian side ranked 133rd in the world, will increase Irish supporters hopes of gaining a positive result against Les Bleus.

An Irish starting XI with an average age of 23 included individuals auditioning to face the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Antoine Griezmann.

In that regard, Will Smallbone, Jasyon Molumby, Alan Browne and Callum O’Dowda can be content with their efforts.

Ireland are expected to be as busy without the ball than when in possession against France. So, the aforementioned midfielders’ ability to close down space and create chances will have pleased Stephen Kenny.

Josh Cullen and Jason Knight may start against the French but Smallbone, Molumby, Browne and O’Dowda’s Latvian auditions went about as well as they could have envisaged.

Our next great defender?

Andrew Omobamidele’s composed senior international displays against Portugal and Serbia belied the central defender’s tender age (20).

Featuring in a back three alongside Dara O’Shea and Nathan Collins, the Norwich City defender could not be blamed for either of Latvia’s goals on Wednesday evening.

Little doubt that Kylian Mbappe is on the Irish manager’s mind ahead of Monday’s Euro 2024 Championship qualifier.

Omobamidele had already faced Ronaldo and didn’t look out of place then.

A similar performance in helping close down Mbappe is something a now injury-free Omobamidele looks capable of. Another 62 senior international minutes under his belt will benefit the Norwich defender.

Captain’s Log

Matt Doherty captained his country for the first time against Latvia and, for over an hour, showcased his qualities by raiding down the right wing.

The former Bohemians, Wolves, Tottenham Hotspur and current Atletico Madrid defender hasn’t featured often over the past eight weeks.

Despite a lack of game-time, Doherty used the ball intelligently. If required, the versatile player showed why he could be an additional option off the bench against France.

Impact Subs

Chiedozie Ogbene and Mikey Johnston weren’t on the pitch long before the substitutes combined to put Ireland 3-2 ahead.

Ogbene’s fourth senior international goal coupled with Johnston’s positive Irish debut re-energised the home crowd.

Both players made necessary and positive impacts in a friendly that looked like drifting towards a draw. Ogbene and Johnston gave a glimpse of what they offer Stephen Kenny if called upon in the immediate future.

Evan sent

All the pre-match hype surrounded one man and with good reason.

Evan Ferguson has been hogging the headlines with three goals in 11 Premier League appearances before a brace in Brighton and Hove Albion’s 5-0 FA Cup defeat of Grimsby.

Ferguson added to his growing reputation with a poacher’s finish to double Ireland’s lead against Latvia.

That welcome goal aside, the 18-year-old’s work rate, ability to hold possession and link with midfield showcased additional reasons to be excited about this Irish prospect’s future.

Is it too early to thrust Ferguson into action against France? What has Stephen Kenny got to lose?

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