Football/Soccer

David Meyler is becoming a key component of Republic of Ireland midfield

David Meyler's performance in Ireland's 1-0 loss to Serbia has helped to cement his place in Martin O'Neill's midfield
From Brendan Crossan in Abbotstown

2018 World Cup Qualifying Group D: Republic of Ireland v Moldova (Friday, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm)

DAVID Meyler’s performance against Serbia last month was so assured that he might well have become the team’s first choice central midfielder.

Even in defeat, Meyler's average rating was eight-out-of-10.

Often labelled ‘Mr Versatile’ of Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O’Neill’s squads over the last seven years, the unassuming Cork native was never deemed first choice at international level.

Prior to last month’s 1-0 defeat to World Cup qualifying opponents Serbia, Meyler would have been down the pecking order and firmly behind James McCarthy, Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick.

After the Irish midfield malfunctioned in Tbilisi, the Hull City man won a rare start a few days later against the Serbs ahead of Whelan and Arter.

The fact that the 28-year-old midfielder accompanied manager Martin O’Neill to yesterday’s pre-match press conference ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova was a sure sign he will be in the team’s engine room.

O’Neill knows Meyler’s strengths intimately having managed him during his time at Sunderland.

Leaning back in his chair sporting a marvellous beard, Meyler played down his man-of-the-match performance against Serbia and his new-found importance to Ireland’s cause.

“You can talk about importance but I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve played games under the previous manager,” he said.

“He knows I’m available wherever he wants me to play. I played right back for him before.

“At club level, I played centre half for him.

“Wherever he needs me to play, I’ll play. He knows that and I’ll give it everything I have. Likewise with the rest of the squad; we’re all there, we all want to play and we’re all focused on tomorrow. It’s a big game, we’ll make sure we get the three points.”

Meyler echoed the sentiments of his manager yesterday by insisting the players don’t have one eye on Monday night’s clash with Wales in Cardiff which will decide who finishes second to likely table-toppers Serbia.

“We’ve got two important games but we need to focus on tomorrow night. The first game is the most important game.

“We can’t be looking at Wales, our preparation is towards Moldova, we need to go and win the game tomorrow night.

“There is no point in looking at Wales because we’ve a job to do tomorrow. That is our complete focus.”

A substitute in Vienna last year, Meyler helped turn the game in Ireland’s favour against Austria and claimed an assist for James McClean’s winning goal early in the second half.

Asked what fellow Cork man Roy Keane has brought to the table since hooking up with O’Neill at international level, Meyler said: "Look, he was captain for Manchester United and Ireland for a long time. He's a winner.

"In the changing room, he's inspiring. Our target for every game is to go out and win.

"You couldn't pick out one game where he said one specific thing. Every game is the exact same.

"I suppose with the manager they're just encouraging us to go out and perform. As the manager said, once we cross that line it's up to us to perform.

"They can only do so much. We're well-prepared, we've looked at Moldova all week and it's up to us now to go out and get the result."

If Meyler can reproduce the performance he delivered against Serbia, the Republic will be well on their way to a much-needed victory tonight.

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