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23rd Mar 2023

Three players who shone for Ireland in another unconvincing performance

Rory Fleming

Ireland Latvia best players

In a lacklustre display, three players stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Ireland claimed yet another unconvincing win over lesser ranked opposition on Wednesday night at a rain-stricken Aviva Stadium, ultimately overcoming Latvia 3-2.

Stephen Kenny’s side raced into a two goal lead thanks to Callum O’Dowda’s sixth minute header which was followed by Evan Ferguson’s much anticipated maiden international strike.

Ireland Latvia best playersStephen Kenny named a much-rotated side in Ireland’s warm-up clash for their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. (Credit: Getty Images)

The Boys in Green looked to be almost embarking on a training exercise at times in the opening half hour, as they toyed with the Baltic nation.

However, Roberts Uldrikis’ 33rd minute wonder strike silenced the Irish fans, before a first half stoppage time mistake from Caoimhin Kelleher saw the world’s 133rd ranked team draw level.

Substitute Chiedozie Ogbene managed to spare Irish blushes though, grabbing the winning goal following a spectacular solo attempt from debutant Mikey Johnston.

With all eyes now firmly fixed towards the visit of World Cup finalists France on Monday night, here are the three players who left a lasting impression:

Ireland Latvia Best PlayersEvan Ferguson scored on his first international start. (Credit: Getty Images)

Evan Ferguson:

It was inevitable that on the night of his first international start, that the prodigious Brighton forward would step up to the plate and deliver.

Still just 18, Ferguson has already proved to be a player for the big moments, with Premier League goals against the likes Arsenal and Everton, and firing the Seagulls into the FA Cup Semi Finals for just the the third time in the south coast club’s history with a brace against Stoke.

With every touch against the Latvians, the former Bohs striker had Irish fans in attendance on the edge of their seats, as he cemented his place in the starting XI ahead of Monday’s formidable French test.

Ireland latvia best playersWill Smallbone was Ireland’s best midfielder on the night. (Credit: Getty Images)

Will Smallbone:

Another player making his first international start, the Stoke City midfielder managed to produce a composed performance amongst the disorganisation which ensued around him.

Grabbing an assist with a perfectly weighted delivery for O’Dowda’s opening goal, the 23-year-old went on to create six chances over the course of the gam, more than any other player on the pitch.

Smallbone’s performance on the night clearly caught the attention of Stephen Kenny too, with the Ireland manager stating that his display “gives us something to think about ahead of the France fixture.

Mikey Johnston was Ireland’s standout player following his second half introduction. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Mikey Johnston:

A technically skilled Celtic winger born in Scotland lining out for the Boys in Green? We’ve read this script before, and based off last night’s cameo, it seems Mikey Johnston has too.

Coming on for Michael Obafemi in the 63rd minute, the winger, on loan at Portuguese side Vitória, lit up what had been an uninspiring start to the second half for Ireland.

Displaying the trickery and attitude which saw Stephen Kenny travel to Portugal personally to convince Johnston to swap international allegiances, the winger set off on a brazen run which ultimately saw Chiedozie Ogbene prod the ball home for the winner.

With attacking options from the bench lacking in recent times, the Ireland coaching staff seem to have found the perfect addition to the squad ahead of their quest for Euro 2024 qualification.

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