Friday 25 May 2018

Calm O'Neill has no fears about big match security after events in Paris

John O’Shea limbers up in training ahead of tonight’s Euro 2016 play-off second leg with Bosnia
John O’Shea limbers up in training ahead of tonight’s Euro 2016 play-off second leg with Bosnia
Ireland players in training at Abbotstown yesterday in preparation for tonight’s showdown with Bosnia

Martin O'Neill paid his respects to the victims of the awful events in Paris but is not concerned about any possible fallout for tonight's Euro 2016 play-off, second-leg against Bosnia.

"I don't feel uneasy about the game," he said.

"It was horrendous, the events in Paris, and obviously puts a lot of things into perspective including football matches. I'm hoping the stadium is well policed and I'm hoping we will be OK." As footballers and football managers must, O'Neill focused on the task at hand and put fears over next summer's finals in France to one side.

His immediate concern was to damp down any over-enthusiasm generated by a good draw in Zenica.

"The pressure remains the same because we know what is at stake," said O'Neill.

"I don't think the advantage is with us just because we have an away goal, because Bosnia are capable of scoring a goal. Any team has that ability, but especially this Bosnian one," he said.

"We have to try and win the game, that has got to be our mind set. If we go into the game with any other mind set, I think we will make it difficult for ourselves. The tie is really finely balanced. I have to be mindful of the fact we are still a long way from qualifying," he added.

O'Neill revealed that John O'Shea and Shane Long took some part in training yesterday and that both are still in the mix and will be right up to kick-off time if necessary.

"John has done an amount of work during the week and Shane less so in that sense. We will see how they come out of the training," he said.

One man certain to come straight back into the team is Jon Walters, a must pick for O'Neill now that he has served his one-match ban.

"We might lack a few things in our side, but a bit of strength of character I think is there and the likes of Jon Walters epitomises that," O'Neill said. "Jon has been terrific in the campaign. He epitomises the spirit, never say die, and he's come up with big goals for us as well," raved the Ireland boss.

"He's been pretty exceptional throughout the tournament and I couldn't speak more highly of him."

O'Neill will allow no room for sentiment even if players like O'Shea and Robbie Keane could be facing into their final big stakes game at the Aviva Stadium.

"That's called tough luck, just tough luck. I'm not going to put players in because it might be their last international game," he said.

"I'll put them in on merit and hopefully the experience that they have garnered over the last 10 or 15 years could stand us in a bit of decent stead. That would be the reason."

O'Neill revealed his pride in making it this far with this group of players and dismissed any suggestion that motivation has ever been an issue for any of them as individuals or as a group.

"My pride in the side has been there from the start. I think the players have wanted to play," he said.

"There was a feeling beforehand that some players just weren't that bothered about playing for their country. I haven't witnessed it and I haven't experienced it in the two years that I've been here.

"I think the motivation is there. If we are beaten here, it won't be through lack of trying.

"We have to put things into perspective: Bosnia are capable of scoring, they could wipe that advantage, that away goal that we have within minutes of the game, and then suddenly they are on the front foot.

"If we think that we can keep them out for 90 minutes and camp ourselves just outside our own penalty area, that would be a recipe for disaster.

"We have to consider being really on the front foot, genuinely, and going and trying to win this game, and that's it," he said.

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