SUNDERLAND winger James McClean was among the Republic of Ireland young guns who won praise for their displays in last night’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Greece.
Boss Giovanni Trapattoni blooded a new generation of players by naming McClean, Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy and Robbie Brady in his starting line-up, and there was also a nod to the form of Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan, introduced as a half-time sub.
Jose Holebas’s 29th-minute strike ultimately secured victory for the Greeks, but Trapattoni – whose next match is a World Cup qualifier against Sweden in March – was happy with what he saw.
He said: “The results gives us great disappointment, but the performance gives us possibilities.
“It gave us confirmation of what we were looking for. Coleman, McCarthy, Long and also McClean, they confirmed against a great team – because Greece are a great team – their quality and their personality, and that was important.
“In the first 20 minutes, we played very, very great football. We conceded the goal and even then, we still had more possession.
“Football is about results, but we had some good situations and three or four of the players showed their personality in this difficult game.
“It was very important to have a good performance after the disappointment against Germany. You can see a progression.”
However, while there were encouraging signs from Brady, who combined well with full-back Seamus Coleman down the right, and McCarthy, when it came to the hard currency of clear-cut chances, they were few and far between.
The goal came from midfielder Holebas, who turned smartly past Sunderland defender John O’Shea after collecting skipper Georgios Samaras’s pass before drilling a shot past keeper David Forde and into the bottom corner.
REP OF IRELAND: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Ward, Whelan (Andrews), McCarthy (Meyler), Brady (Hoolahan), McClean, Long (Doyle), Cox (Keogh)