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O'Neill confident Christie will be a capable deputy

By Damian Spellman

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has backed Cyrus Christie to fill injured captain Seamus Coleman's boots as he looks ahead to Sunday's World Cup qualifier with Austria.

The 24-year-old Derby full back took on Coleman's mantle to the full as he contributed a goal to the Republic's 3-1 friendly victory over Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium seven days before the Group D clash with the Austrians.

O'Neill was full of praise for Christie, who took himself off to the United States at the end of an injury-hit domestic season to ensure he was in shape for his international commitments.

The manager said: "They're obviously big shoes to fill and Cyrus has always done well for us. In many aspects, he's unlucky that someone as brilliant as Seamus is in front of him.

"But he took himself off as well too to get physically fit before we even met up [for a training camp] in Cork. Credit to him, he's desperate to do well.

"I thought he was excellent today, and he was one of our better lights in the game against Mexico."

A Republic side featuring far more of the men who are likely to start against Austria than the one which had succumbed tamely to the Mexicans in the US last week fought its way past a Uruguay team shorn of the services of Luis Suarez by injury.

Skipper for the night Jonathan Walters opened the scoring with a superb 28th-minute strike, but after defender Jose Gimenez had levelled, passed up a second goal when to his horror, he hit the bar from just three yards.

Walters said with a smile: "Don't worry about that, I'll beat myself up about that more than anybody else. I'm just glad I got the one before.

"Then Cyrus, it was a great goal from him, just like the Gibraltar one away, and then it was great for James (McClean) to come on and score a screamer again. We are delighted with the win and how we won, but it's all eyes on next week now."

Christie's 51st-minute effort restored the home side's advantage and substitute McClean made sure in thrilling style with 13 minutes remaining when he skipped past the lunging Gimenez and drove into the box before thumping a low drive across goalkeeper Esteban Conde and inside the far post.

O'Neill said: "If I'm not going overboard about the Mexico defeat, It's nice to win against Uruguay, but everything is just preparation mentally and physically for Sunday.

"In a nutshell, we've got to go forward against Austria. We're on the front foot, we've got to be on the front foot from the start of the game."

Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarezwas philosophical in defeat as he looked ahead to August's World Cup qualifier with Argentina. He said: "We always pursue the result and unfortunately today, the result was not the best.

But we had some players injured and new players in the team and we are expecting better results in the future, in August and so on. That's what we are all looking for."

O'Neill refused to be drawn on who will start for the Republic in goal against Marcel Koller's side at Lansdowne Road next weekend, following Darren Randolph's mistake against the Uruguayans. Randolph was at fault for Jose Gimenez's equaliser after misjudging an angled Carlos Sanchez free-kick into the box.

His half-time replacement, Sheffield Wednesday's Kieren Westwood, then made a brilliant one-handed save to keep out Gimenez's 68th-minute header.

"I've got a lot of time for both goalkeepers," O'Neill said.

"From the moment that Darren's came in, that time he came on as a sub against Germany, he hasn't done a great deal wrong. Westwood has been waiting patiently in the wings - and I know Keiren myself.

"He's very talented and that was a really good save today. It is just nice to have two very capable goalkeepers and there's not a great deal between them."

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