Cyrus Christie showed there is life after Seamus Coleman as he helped fire the Republic of Ireland to a friendly victory over Uruguay in Dublin.
The Derby full-back, who is in line to start next Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Austria with Coleman recovering from a double leg fracture, scored his second senior international goal on the way to a morale-boosting 3-1 win at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland had taken a 28th-minute lead through skipper Jonathan Walters’ sumptuous effort, and although Jose Gimenez levelled before the break, Christie’s strike and a well-executed third from substitute James McClean rounded off a good evening for manager Martin O’Neill.
He made eight changes to the side that lost 3-1 to Mexico with only keeper Darren Randolph and defenders Christie and Shane Duffy retained, and saw his big names engineer a significant improvement on the performance at the MetLife Stadium and boost spirits ahead of the Austrians’ visit to Dublin.
Opposite number Oscar Tabarez named just five of the men who started the last World Cup qualifier in Peru, among them Paris St Germain frontman Edinson Cavani.
In the event, Cavani lasted just 12 minutes after over-stretching in an ultimately vain attempt – if only just – to reach Randolph’s nonchalant pass across his own penalty area to Duffy at the start of a first half which was to move from the sublime to the ridiculous before it drew to a close.
Ireland’s 4-2-3-1 formation gave them a much more solid base than they had enjoyed against the Mexicans when O’Neill’s three-man defence simply did not work, but star man Robbie Brady found himself operating on the right and initially struggled to have his usual influence.
Walters enjoyed some early success in getting behind the Uruguay rearguard, but it was Brady who tested keeper Esteban Conde with a swerving 13th-minute effort before Duffy only just failed to connect with a diving header from the Burnley midfielder’s cross seconds later.
Cavani’s replacement Cristhian Stuani failed to trouble Randolph with a tame 18th-minute volley and it was the home side which took the lead in some style 10 minutes later.
Glenn Whelan surged on to Jeff Hendrick’s pass and stabbed the ball towards Walters who, having urged his team-mate to step aside, took a touch and then curled a dipping right-foot shot past Conde and into the far corner.
Uruguay were level seven minutes before the break when Gimenez made the most of Randolph’s ill-judged decision to come for Egidio Arevalo Rios’ free-kick, although he needed a piece of good fortunate as the ball came off his shoulder as he attempted to head it and looped into the unguarded net.
However, Ireland would have gone in ahead at the break had Walters been able to summon up even a morsel of the quality he had demonstrated earlier when meeting Brady’s volleyed cross in front of an open goal, but he instead contrived to steer his shot against the crossbar from three yards.
Christie did restore the advantage within six minutes of the restart, though, when he cut inside full-back Martin Caceres and deceived Conde with a low left-foot shot which defender Sebastian Coates failed to block.
With Brady now playing in his more accustomed left-sided berth, the Republic were more of a threat despite O’Neill making five substitutions by the time the clock had ticked past the hour-mark.
One of them, Keiren Westwood, announced his return to the fold with a fine one-handed save from Gimenez’s towering 68th-minute header, and it was Ireland who finished strongly.
Daryl Murphy tested Conde with a low drive, but then set up fellow substitute McClean to cement the win in clinical fashion.
McClean stepped on to Murphy’s pass and skipped over Gimenez’s desperate lunge before thumping a shot across the keeper and inside the far post.