Ireland boss Martin O'Neill warns of tougher tests ahead
Martin O`Neill told his Republic of Ireland side to prepare for sterner tests in key European Championship qualifiers after they rounded off 2014 with a comfortable 4-1 friendly win at home to the United States.
Goals from Anthony Pilkington, Robbie Brady (two) and James McClean helped Ireland see off Jurgen Klinsmann`s side at Dublin`s Lansdowne Road on Tuesday, despite the Irish fielding a second-string side.
None of the 11 that started in last Friday`s 1-0 Group D qualifying defeat by Scotland at Glasgow`s Celtic Park kicked-off against the United States, but those who got their chance grabbed it.
Debutants David McGoldrick, with two assists, and Cyrus Christie, impressed, while Brady shone in a slightly unfamiliar left back role, with two goals -- a free-kick moments from time taking the breath away.
"Qualifying games are the most important and everything else is a build up to it," said Republic manager O`Neill.
"We scored four goals, which was nice, but the most important matches will be those played in 2015.
"We have seven points on the board (in Group D) and, while it was disappointing not to get something from the game (against Scotland) on Friday, if we had got a point we would still be looking to beat Scotland and Poland here," the former Northern Ireland midfielder and Celtic manager added.
McGoldrick`s guile, Christie`s pace and the natural ability of Brady, are all attributes O`Neill could integrate to his squad for the next qualifier against Poland in March, and he was cautiously optimistic about what he saw from the trio."The positive aspect for me is the number of decent performances and the addition of some quality to the squad," he said.
"Some lads who hadn`t played on Friday were desperate to play so I made it so everyone in the squad was involved and it worked out nicely for us.
"Cyrus and David gave two excellent performances and epitomised what we are trying to do.
"It was nice to win the game and I thought we scored from our first proper attack with a great through ball by David McGoldrick.
"America came into the game then and deserved the equaliser but our second half was excellent and it was terrific to score the goals that we did.
"Robbie Brady himself will say that he sees the whole game in front of him from left-back. He still has to improve and he will say that himself, but he is an excellent player and I was delighted for him."
Despite some Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood occasionally going close, Mix Diskerud was the only man on the scoresheet for the visitors, and Klinsmann admitted it was tough to see his young players punished so ruthlessly.
"Obviously, from a result point of view, it is disappointing," Klinsmann said.
"We were 1-0 down and we equalised and hoped to get the lead before half-time," the former Germany striker and manager explained.
"After half-time we could have scored a second and then individual mistakes cost us for the second and third goal.
"They punished us. You want your younger players coming in and getting minutes in this atmosphere and there is always a risk you might concede another one and they scored a lovely free-kick.
"It finished off a long year, 2014, which was overall a positive year."
Klinsmann added: "We are building a new cycle and introducing new players.
"There will be some growing pains along the way. That is normal. You don`t want to lose games, but this is experience they needed. We`re obviously not happy about the result, but we`ll accept it."