Stephen Kenny has warned that Ireland will have to lean on their wider squad and not just key individuals after encouraging performances from Evan Ferguson, Will Smallbone and Mikey Johnstone against Latvia.
The home team struggled after a fast start against the Eastern Europeans but Smallbone was named man of the match on his senior debut, Ferguson scored after 17 minutes in a tidy display and Johnston turned heads in making his debut off the bench.
“It’s never straightforward with players,” said the Ireland boss. “Injuries can take their toll with young players. The demands are high in the leagues they are in and sometimes that happens.
“What we have now is a high number of players who have come through, unprecedented in our history, the number in a short proximity. That has given us depth in our squad.
"It doesn’t mean we have incredible in all positions at all times. I’m not suggesting that but we are improving our depth all the time and the quality of player coming into the team.” That said, Kenny was willing to praise that trio for their efforts on the night.
“Evan, it’s his first start and he got a goal. You can’t predict things in the future. He is still learning the game and he took everything in his stride. Will, having watched a lot of Stoke recently, just so impressed with how he has kicked on.
“He was a good player earlier in the season in some games, quiet in other games at other times and good moments but not dominant. He has been very good (recently) for Stoke. He has added other aspects to his game so he has given us something to think about.
“Mikey, that was a snapshot of what Mikey can be. He had a year out injured and that’s what I was saying with some of the other young players. Adam (Idah) and Troy (Parrott) were out, these take their toll on players.
“Andrew (Omobamidele) was out for such a period with his back. They burst on the scene and sometimes that happens. We can’t say with certainty that everyone will go through the roof.” It was another mixed bag for his side in an international friendly that was being used to give game time to some players short of action in recent times and to blood the likes of Ferguson, Smallbone and Johnston.
Two-nil up through Callum O’Dowda and Ferguson after 17 minutes, they conceded twice from outside the box before the first-half ended and they eventually needed a Chiedozie Ogbene strike from close range to seal the win.
“There was many aspects that I was pleased with in the game and I counteract that by saying that it wasn’t the perfect performance, of course. I felt our passing was quite good in the first-half and we had penetration in all our play.
“Callum O’Dowd gave us that on the left wing and the link play between Matt Doherty and Will Smallbone on the right gave them a lot of problems. So we looked very good for periods and then we went in two-all at half-time.
“That was difficult to accept because we had chances to go three up and we didn’t take them. We have to accept some criticism for that as well. Maybe we got very confident and we were trying a lot of different things in possession.
“We got caught with a pass inside and got punished with an unbelievable goal. The second goal was deflected but I didn’t think it was a reflection of play at half-time but glad to win the game, and a lot of good things came from it.”
Kenny also confirmed that Seamus Coleman had a “slight strain” after his last appearance for Everton but predicted that the veteran right-back would be fit for Monday night’s European Championship qualifier opener at home to France.