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Tuesday 21 February 2017

Lille game a turning point: boss

The 1-0 defeat of the Italians sealed Ireland's progress to the last 16 of the tournament. Pic: Sportsfile
The 1-0 defeat of the Italians sealed Ireland's progress to the last 16 of the tournament. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland's win over Italy in Lille last summer will, in time, be seen as the point when a new generation of Irish stars emerged onto the big stage, Martin O'Neill believes.

The 1-0 defeat of the Italians sealed Ireland's progress to the last 16 of the tournament but for O'Neill, the manner in which players like Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Duffy came through will be recalled as stalwarts like John O'Shea, Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady had to take a backseat.

"Maybe in time that my become the type of focal point of the time there was an emergence of a new side. I'm never sure of those things that people want to read into it," O'Neill told Eir Sport in an interview.

"If you're asking for a more simplistic viewpoint, at that time we just needed a wee bit of extra energy in the side with some younger players coming into the team. I would not just discard the older members of the side, they have great presence around about the place, a couple were disappointed to lose their places in the side as well, particularly as it was only a week since we played so well against Sweden. But a lot can happen in a week.

"Some of those older players are still around and can still have an influence but as the team progresses over the next couple of years - hopefully I'm still around - we might go back to that and feel that it was a turning point," added O'Neill, who is also pleased with how Seamus Coleman has taken on the burden of the captaincy.

"That's a natural process for him. I wouldn't want to give him the captaincy and say to him there are a number of things he needs to try and please me with. He got the captaincy because of who he was," he said.

"Players' attitude off the field, their influence - good or bad - over a group of players, leadership qualities, if some of them possess that, those sort of things do come to the fore in someone's demeanour and attitude towards life, never mind football, and I think that sometimes I think that the way you perform on the field might mirror the way you approach life and sometimes it doesn't.

"Sometimes great, great players on the pitch are not the best off the pitch. I think talent is very important. I think attitude is essential and if you have got a combination of these things, then you are in business.

"Seamus Coleman is quiet by nature. I think it (captaincy) is just something he desired. He has taken it to a great level and his performances for both club and country, regardless of whether or not he is captain at Everton, it seems as if his game has improved because of this extra responsibility he has."

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