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Monday 5 December 2016

Martin O'Neill: We'll be ready for whoever we get in the play-offs

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

Manager Martin O'Neill has promised the Republic of Ireland will be ready for whatever is thrown at them as they prepare for the Euro 2016 play-offs.

O'Neill's men will go into the hat for Sunday's draw after losing their final qualifier in Poland 2-1 on Sunday evening to finish third in Group D.

They are unlikely to be seeded and will be without suspended duo John O'Shea, who was sent off for two bookable offences at the Narodowy Stadium, and Jonathan Walters, who collected his third caution of the campaign, through suspension for next month's first leg.

However, a bullish O'Neill, who saw defender Richard Keogh force a late save from Lukasz Fabianski, said: "Tonight was disappointing in the result but funnily enough for all of that, Richard heads the ball into the net with six or seven minutes left in the game and we're in France. It's that close.

"Poland, who are a very, very fine side, went down at every opportunity, as you would expect them to, to cut the game. The game was stop-start a lot of the match and in the second half, it was very much that case, so I will draw great solace and great determination from the players and their efforts.

"We are still there and whoever we play, we will be as ready as we possibly can be."

Grzegorz Krychowiak handed Poland a 13th-minute lead with a sweetly-struck effort from distance, but Walters gave Ireland fresh hope from the penalty spot just three minutes later.

However, Robert Lewandowski's powerful header - his 15th goal in six games - with three minutes of the first half remaining proved to be the difference between the teams on a night when striker Shane Long was carried from the field on a stretcher.

Poland boss Adam Nawalka was delighted to have guided his side to next summer's finals in France after seeing them carry out his orders to perfection.

He said: "First of all, I have to say this was a very difficult game. From the very first minute until the final whistle, it was a fierce battle. But at the end of the day, we managed to qualify, which is why we are extremely pleased about that.

"We had a concrete plan, we knew how to execute it and we succeeded. I have to say that my players did an extremely great job today and this is their success."

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