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Football | Talking points from Poland

What a moment scoring on my debut for my country.. couldn’t of shared it with a better group of lads! @FAIreland 🙌🏼🇮🇪👊🏼 — AidenObrien🤷🏼‍♂️ (@AidenObrien22) September 12, 2018 A much improved performance Ireland's performance was almost recognizable from the dismal showing in Cardiff. Darren Randolph, Cyrus Christie, and Jeff Hendrick were the sole survivors from the starting eleven which lost 4-1 in Wales, and the relatively experienced team performed well in Poland. This was admittedly a friendly, but there were plenty of positives to take from the 1-1 draw. The first half was dull, but Ireland's defending was much improved from the drubbing in Cardiff.

Arkadiusz Milik should have given Poland the lead in the opening period, but directed his header wide after being picked out in the box. The new-look team also kept possession for one prolonged period in the first half, which was refreshing to see. There was plenty of fight and commitment on show, which fans needed to see after the recent circus surrounding the camp. Ireland dropped deep - perhaps nervously - later in the game as they tried to protect their lead. Poland, who drew 1-1 in Italy in their UEFA Nations League opener, pressed for an equalizer, and drew level int he 87th minute. Leeds striker Mateusz Klich came off the bench to rescue a draw for the hosts, but O'Neill was happy with his side's display. “We played exceptionally well and should have won the game," he said. "We defended very strongly. We tried to play as well as them and we succeeded. We needed that. We are judged on performances and results. The players responded brilliantly.” Williams and Stevens impress Shaun Williams and Enda Stevens impressed on their first international starts. Williams – who came off the bench to score in Wales – worked hard in midfield, and also looked comfortable in possession. With Harry Arter's absence, Conor Hourihane's failure to impress thus far, and James McCarthy's ongoing injury issues, places could well be up for grabs in the centre of midfield. Williams' performances to date suggest that he'll be a useful squad player at the very least. Stevens, starting at left wing back, also produced a solid performance, which will do his international prospects no harm. There had been questions marks over Stephen Ward's role as first choice left back even before the Burnley defender's leaked WhatsApp voice recording. Ward is likely to find himself in Martin O'Neill's bad books, and Sheffield United defender Stevens could be the man to benefit. The former League of Ireland defender made his first competitive start for the Boys in Green last night, operating as a left wing back. Stevens picked up an injury in the warm up, but insisted that he wanted to play, something which clearly impressed the management team. "These players want to play, and that was probably exemplified by Enda Stevens in the warm-up," O'Neill claimed afterwards. "In the warm-up, I heard that Enda has gone over on his ankle, and we say ‘are you sure about this?’ and he says, ‘I want to play’. He said it was easing off and he wanted to play, and that is the sort of attitude that is exemplified by the squad." O'Dowda shines again Callum O'Dowda produced another fine performance in Poland. The Bristol City winger has grown in prominence for Ireland in recent months, and is becoming a key player for the Boys in Green. He produced a superb touch to skip past a defender, and then provided an inch-perfect cross for O'Brien's goal. The 23-year-old is excellent on the ball, and provides much needed creativity to the Irish midfield. He was arguably the most impressive player on the pitch, and looked both lively and dangerous throughout. While it was only a friendly in Wroclaw, Ireland managed to produce the positive display that was so badly needed. After all the recent negativity, it is good to have some positives to take into the next international break.

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