The Republic of Ireland go into Sunday’s crucial World Cup qualifier with Austria in confident mood following their 3-1 victory over Uruguay.
Martin O’Neill’s side entertain Group C rivals Austria at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, with the Republic level on points with group leaders Serbia, and four points clear of Sunday’s opponents.
Victory would see the Republic of Ireland take a massive stride towards at least securing a play-off spot, with just four rounds of fixtures to go after Sunday.
After a chastening 3-1 defeat at the hands of Mexico in New Jersey, O’Neill made eight changes for the friendly with Uruguay, with Darren Randolph, Cyrus Christie and Shane Duffy the only players to keep their places.
“It was nice to win the game and we scored some really good goals and it was a nice contrast to the Mexico game but everything is depending on the Austria game,” said O’Neill.
“It was a good work out for us today but also I thought the Mexico game was exactly what we needed. There were a lot of Championship players playing in that game that hadn’t played for a number of weeks and I think it showed.
“Today we had a more experienced side out in terms of international caps but it was still very important for us.”
O’Neill reverted to a flat back four, after trying out an experimental 3-5-2 against Mexico, with Glenn Whelan and the excellent Harry Arter deployed in the middle of the park in front of the defence.
Whelan and Arter’s withdrawn roles allowed Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Jonny Hayes to push further forward and supplement the lone striker, Jonathan Walters.
It was Walters who gave Ireland the lead on 27 minutes, only for Jose Gimenez to level just 11 minutes later after Randolph had failed to claim Carlos Sanchez’s out-swinging free-kick.
Walters should have restored the Republic’s lead just before the break, only for the Stoke forward to hit the crossbar from just two yards out.
Christie did restore the Irish lead on 51 minutes, although his effort appeared to be an attempted cross rather than a shot, and the impressive Derby full back is now expected to start on Sunday, as he continues to deputise for the injured Seamus Coleman.
“Christie has done very well in both matches. I thought he was pretty good against Mexico and considering he is trying to replace a big figure in Seamus Coleman, I think he’s doing very well for us,” said O’Neill.
“It gives us that wee bit of confidence and some things to think about during the week but it’s about players just getting their mind set for Austria. That’s the be all and end all.”
James McClean came off the bench to claim number three just three minutes after coming on, and tie up a confidence boosting victory ahead of Austria.
O’Neill admitted afterwards that he now has some big calls to make when selecting Sunday’s team.
“I’ve got a lot of choices to make, I think that’s the nice thing about players here. If you have the ability to step up and show your hand, I think that helps immensely,” he said.
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph (Keiren Westwood HT); Cyrus Christie, Kevin Long, Shane Duffy (Alex Pearce 60), Stephen Ward; Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan (Wes Hoolahan HT), Jonny Hayes (Aiden McGeady 60), Jeff Hendrick (James McClean 74), Robbie Brady; Jonathan Walters (Daryl Murphy 60).