Martin Odegaard came to Tallaght but we all left talking about Josh Cullen 1 year ago

Martin Odegaard came to Tallaght but we all left talking about Josh Cullen

Many of the fans at Tallaght Stadium were eager to see Real Madrid youngster Martin Odegaard line out against Ireland but more than a few left raving about an Irish midfielder.

Ireland U21 captain Josh Cullen picked up a deserved man of the match award after his side's European U21 Championship Qualifiers draw at Tallaght Stadium.

The West Ham midfielder, who is currently on loan and playing regular Championship football with Bolton, was an assured presence for Ireland as they continued their unbeaten start in the qualifiers. He was probing in attack, calm in possession and vital in defence on more than a few occasions.

He was the game's best player although Odegaard had flashes of genius and kept the Irish defence busy. Bought for €3 million from Strømsgodset, two years ago, Odegaard is still relatively early on his journey as a professional footballer.

The Norwegian talent is currently on loan with Dutch side SC Heerenveen and has nine senior caps for the national side. The 18-year-old definitely kept Cullen and the Irish defence on their toes in the second half.

Odegaard was very good but Cullen was better. He was a driving force for Ireland as they strained and push for three points that eventually proved elusive.

Former Ireland international midfielder Keith Andrews had nothing but praise for Cullen and West Ham teammate Declan Rice and their centre midfield partnership against the group's second seeds. Ireland's senior management team of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane were in the stands for the game.

Born in Southend, Cullen played for England U16s but switched to Ireland at Under 19 level. He has eight caps for the U21s.

Following the game, Ireland U21 boss Noel King told The42, "Josh leads by example.

"He’s technically very good, tackles everybody, he’s going to make a big career in football and we’re delighted to have him."

As for Cullen himself, he was already looking ahead to Monday's qualifier game against Israel. "As a midfield player and the type of player I am, [setting the tempo] is the job I try to do in every game," he told eir Sport.

"I've got some experience from the previous [qualifying] campaign as well. I just try to do my job the best I can for my team, in every game I play, and try lead them as best I can."