Gary Connaughton reporting from the Aviva Stadium
Callum Robinson will steal most of the headlines after tonight's win over Qatar and rightly so. It's not often we see an Ireland player score a hat-trick at international.
However, perhaps the most notable performance in the game came from Jeff Hendrick.
The Newcastle midfielder is a player who has flattered to deceive during much of his Ireland career, one who could never quite recapture the form he produced at Euro 2016. He just seemed to fade out of games, something that was so frustrating when you knew he had the ability to offer a lot more.
Under Stephen Kenny, he has been steadily improving, really coming to the fore tonight.
This was Hendrick's best performance for his country since that tournament in France. He was exemplary both on and off the ball, producing some wonderful touches and showed a real eye for a pass.
His assist for Callum Robinson's third goal was brilliant, one that perfectly encapsulated his showing on the night
What a fantastic goal! Callum Robinson slides home to complete his hat-trick after a lovely Ireland move.
Personal computer https://t.co/ji74HIr1GO
Radio https://t.co/k385JrUVqr #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/fxedbnyqYw
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) October 12, 2021
What has changed for the midfielder over the last few months? Much of it may be down to confidence and being given the green light to play football.
Speaking to the media after the game, Stephen Kenny summed up just how dramatic Hendrick's uptick in form has been.
It really is dramatic. Jeff went through a period when things weren't really happening for him.
He has every attribute. Like, he was absolutely outstanding tonight. It was a complete all-around performance in every facet of his play, his energy around the park, his vision, his first touch, his understanding of his role in the team.
He definitely benefitted from the space of only playing two in midfield and the three wide players. It really suits him that position.
That is one of the best games I have ever seen him play, to be honest. I thought he was really exceptional.
Here's hoping that it can continue moving into the future.