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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Duffy handed huge incentive to shine against Swiss

Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy and Aiden McGeady during squad training at the National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy and Aiden McGeady during squad training at the National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill has given Shane Duffy a huge incentive to shine against Switzerland and Slovakia.

The Ireland boss believes that Duffy should be shooting for the stars and a place in the final 23 for France.

"Yes, I think he should look at it like that himself, absolutely. When I came into the job, he was down at Yeovil on loan and there's no question that he's improved since then," said O'Neill.

"I want to experiment with a few players, I also want to be competitive and I'd like to just keep the momentum going as we don't have that many games left to the start of the Euros," added the Ireland boss.

"We just want to try to play with a wee bit of cohesion and just go and enjoy it."

O'Neill has sent out spies to watch Euro 2016 opponents Italy, Sweden and Belgium in action over the weekend and expects that they will be doing the same.

Asked whether they would see Ireland as the underdogs in France, he was more than happy to agree.

"Will I be happy if they underestimate us?" he said. "Absolutely, but I don't think they will. As Leicester are proving this year, you underestimate teams at your peril.

"They are the standard-bearers for the smaller side, as it were. They have given people hope now that you can compete - and not only compete, actually be successful.

"Does that mean then, if they go on and win the league, that a smaller nation goes on and takes the European Championship? I'm not terribly sure about that. We shall see."

O'Neill was keen to underline once again that Ireland have been given a hard task in France.

"I have said before that Italy, with what they have done in world football - I'm not so sure that they feel they are a pot two team so, effectively, you are looking at Italy and Belgium as pot one teams."

"That's said, we have had our moan, it's over now and we'll just get ready for it. After Germany, the players feel as if they are capable of dealing with that."

O'Neill is hoping for a big crowd but accepts that two games in four days might be a stretch for families. He was happy to relate news of good numbers being sold, unaware that there might be an ulterior motive for the ticket buyers.

"So you're asking whether people are coming to the game because it is one of the only places where they can get a drink?" O'Neill said, unaware of the Good Friday alcohol ban.

"I was wondering why my family wanted to come," he laughed. "Whatever crowd turns up, I won't be disappointed. We've had full houses for big matches and two games in relatively quick succession over Easter is a big ask."

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