Martin O’Neill impressed by Harry Arter's tenacity

Pleased. Happy. Not the most effusive of adjectives from Martin O’Neill on Friday night, but then this was that kind of evening. Good. Fine.

No injuries, defeat avoided, a decent team performance banked and with a handful of fringe individuals putting up their hands for a flight to France.

Harry Arter ended the evening, and his second cap, with the distinction of being man of the match.

It was an announcement that met with some surprise given a performance which was decent without ever hitting great heights.

Like the team as a whole, maybe.

The Bournemouth midfielder demonstrated the line on which players on the edges of the squad must tread when he picked up a yellow card for a reckless tackle on Memphis Depay.

It was the sort that could have even prompted talk of red had it occurred in the Premier League.

He wasn’t alone in his apparent determination to rescue the sliding tackle from its status as endangered species and that was before James McClean’s cameo which included the usual handful of wincingly determined contributions.

O’Neill wasn’t unhappy to see that attitude.

“I understand that the players want to put in a performance. Harry got in two or three times and got booked. That’s the way he generally plays the game. He is tenacious and does put his foot in. That didn’t surprise me. Same with Quinny. I was pleased with them.”

Shane Duffy did wonderfully for 85 minutes.

Talk of interest from Crystal Palace had filtered through the back channels to the back pages prior to this third cap and he responded for the most part with a performance that allied a commanding defensive presence with an attacking threat from Robbie Brady’s set pieces.

The goal, then, was unfortunate, though O’Neill didn’t seem to think he was the lone culprit.

“He did very well in March in the first game, the Swiss match, and he gave another excellent performance considering he hasn’t any fantastic international experience.

“He has come on in leaps and bounds from the time we took him to America when he was on loan, I think at Yeovil, from Everton.

“He has taken to it and he did very well.”

O’Neill reiterated that he would make the final cut to his Euro 2016 squad after Tuesday night’s game against Belarus in Turner’s Cross and that players who failed to feature Friday night could hope to do so in Cork before the last decision is made.

Friday, then, ticked pretty much all the boxes he wanted.

“I was very pleased. I thought we did fine,” he explained.

“We started off not too badly with good possession and we had to play without it for a while, which I thought might happen. Then we got the goal.

“I thought we just about deserved to get in front. Second-half was the same pattern. Maybe a bit of the pattern was disrupted by the substitutions so maybe no surprise with the goal at the end. Overall I was very pleased.”

All of which comes with the asterisk that this was against a Dutch side without any European Championship to distract them next month and their coach Danny Blind admitted that it took them a full hour to drag themselves up to the pitch of the game.

As for Ireland in France, Blind sees potential.

“It is difficult to say,” he said of their chances in France. “They are very dangerous with corners and free kicks. It is up to them and also the third place in the group can be enough to go through to the next round so there are always possibilities.”

Next up, Cork.

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