THREE second half goals from Mikey Johnston, Evan Ferguson and Adam Idah saw the Republic of Ireland claim their first points of the UEFA EURO 2024 qualification campaign as they overcame Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium on Monday.
After Friday's disappointing defeat in Athens, there was pressure on the shoulders of manager Stephen Kenny and that had increased by the break as the breakthrough was yet to come, but Johnston's introduction at the break proved to be the catalyst as he had a tap-in when Will Smallbone's free-kick was deflected in to his path.
Ferguson nose to head home soon after and while there were further chances to extend the lead including one for James McClean on his 100th appearance that was deflected out for a corner, but Idah would put the icing on the cake late on with a header.
"I think it was important to keep our composure and believe in ourselves," Kenny told RTE after.
"We had 32 shots in the game, but it was all about getting that first goal. We had a great chance in the first minute that we didn't take, but once you get the first goal it eases the tension and people can relax. Thankfully, we got two others.
"We're still disappointed about Friday, but it was important to respond in the right way. Of course, we are expected to beat Gibraltar as they are the lower seed in the group and the expectation is there, but that was the same score as France and Holland (Netherlands) beat Gibraltar - 3-0.
"We could have won by a lot more and should have but it was good Adam Idah scored his first goal, Mikey Johnston scored his first goal and Evan Ferguson scored his first competitive goal, so they were plusses."
Evan Ferguson makes it two! 🤩@OfficialBHAFC and Ireland's superstar is there to head in against Gibraltar, his first competitive international goal 👏🇮🇪— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) June 19, 2023
"Another standout moment for the future of Irish football!" 🎙️#EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/yD2HSimMBN
It was vital that Ireland got the win after opening losses in Group B to France and Greece.
In order to qualify for next summer's tournament in Germany, Kenny's side will need to pick up some big results but the task doesn't get any easier after the summer break with back-to-back games in France and at home to Netherlands to come in September.
There will be few who will give the Irish any chance of picking up anything from this games, but they have proven in the past that they can rise to the challenge and will hope to do so again, this time gaining results to fully ignite their qualification hopes.
"They are big games: France in Paris on a Thursday and here against Holland on a Sunday night is an epic two games in a three-day period," Kenny accepts.
"The place will be electric here and we've shown against Portugal, a world-class team, that we've drawn with them here, lost 2-1 over there and France 1-0 (home defeat) so the margins are tight and anything is possible regarding who we play.
"Sometimes we've made life difficult for ourselves and haven't achieved the level of consistency we need and that has been an issue for us."