By Michael Burgess in Dublin

All Whites coach Danny Hay was thrilled with his team's attitude and commitment to the new possession based mantra, despite the team's 3-1 defeat to Ireland on Friday (NZT).

There will come a time, especially near the end of this World Cup cycle, where the result will be paramount, and function might have to prosper over flair and frills.

That wasn't the case at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for a friendly, and Hay's team took the chance to show their wares.


While it's enticing to talk about keeping the ball and playing the incisive, if risky passes, it's not always easy to do, especially when New Zealand's natural inclination over a long time has been based on brawn, conditioning and safety first football.

But this was different, as New Zealand were willing to pass themselves out of trouble, wove some lovely patterns in the final third and constructed a superb goal, with some precise inter passing before Callum McCowatt slid home a Liberato Cacace cross.

"The players were incredibly brave at times," said Hay. "I thought the goal in particular, I can't remember ever seeing an All Whites side score a goal like that, where we've been patient in possession, incisive at the right times. Jeepers, there were some quality interchanges."

It was a night when the new generation shined a light on what is possible, with debutants Joe Bell, Elijah Just and McCowatt all showing their capability on the big stage.

"The young players are very capable and I've said it all along, we need to do something different, we need to try and change the way we play the game," said Hay. "We've got a different kind of player and that's the way they want to play, they want to be possesion-based, they want to be creative, they want to be attack-minded where possible."

New Zealand's Elijah Just and Alan Browne of Ireland. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand's Elijah Just and Alan Browne of Ireland. Photo / Photosport

But there is, of course, a caveat to all that, as winning games is more important than winning admirers. New Zealand's goal came on the half hour, before Ireland scored from a corner on the stroke of half time, then added two in the space of seven minutes in the second half.

Hay was disappointed, but philosophical.

"The first and third goals [from Ireland] are easy fixes – direct from a corner, a young player getting outmuscled, outjumped, and then allowing someone to get across the front of us from a ball that's been whipped in.


"That's easy stuff to fix. The difficult stuff is the interchange, the ability to be brave in possession, to build up from deep. I thought for two days training, the boys were incredibly good, and just imagine what we can do when we spend some time together."

Hay was particularly impressed with Ryan Thomas, who he labelled as the best on field from either team, and Bell, who gave hope that the All Whites may have finally unearthed an international class holding midfielder.

The new coach has talked all week about a new era, new approach and new style and after what was exhibited at the Aviva Stadium it seems like more than words.

"People can have their own opinions, but there were elements there that I've never seen from an All Whites side, ever," said Hay. "We talk about being brave and wanting to do things differently, well there you go. That's the first piece of the jigsaw puzzle."