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Ireland need to show no fear, to take risks at times

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Jeff Hendrick must be adventurous and try to get forward into dangerous positions

Jeff Hendrick must be adventurous and try to get forward into dangerous positions

SPORTSFILE

Jeff Hendrick must be adventurous and try to get forward into dangerous positions

Sitting on the Ireland team bus, driving through the streets of Paris for the World Cup play-off in 2009, I felt no fear.

We had already lost the first leg in Dublin, so we had nothing to lose in Paris - and we played like that in the game. There were 90,000 people in the stadium and we didn't care, we just didn't fear the opposition or the occasion.

Tonight in Bratislava, there will be no atmosphere, no home fans there, so nothing to hold you back. The only thing that will hold you back is your own fear of losing.

This Ireland team do have something to lose, a place in the Euro finals, so they must play with intensity.

Nothing is given to you in games like this, you have to earn it - and you don't earn it by sitting back, just trying to stay in the game. You have to impose yourself on the game.

The Irish players will be respectful of Slovakia and they don't want to be out of it after 30 minutes but they have to use opportunities to dominate. Once you start in that mindset - that you are on the front foot - you start to believe you can win the game. And Ireland need to show that tonight.

Mindset

It takes time to change a mindset. When I watched Ireland so often in the past I saw a case where a fear of losing stopped them from going on to win a game.

In the last two matches Ireland have had control of the ball, have been dominant but not had that final push to go forward, the midfielders were not making penetrating forward runs.

It's all very well being dominant in a game, dominant in possession - but you have to go and win it.

You need that push from midfield and that could mean Robbie Brady or Jeff Hendrick arriving late into the box to get into a good position.

We need to have belief in what we are doing. We had the two games previously where it was a matter of easing our way into it, taking the safe option and passing the ball without taking any risks.

But when the team get into the final third tonight they need to take risks, they need to have belief in the own ability.

We know they are good players. We know they can pass the ball, that they can keep the ball, but it's about them getting into that danger zone - taking opportunities to open up the defence, to try and create our own chances to score goals.

It's easy to say you want to be a passing team, but you can get sucked into the idea where you think 'this is great, we have the ball'.

We need to be in the mindset where the team are creative when they have the ball. We can't just keep passing and passing without creating chances, which happened in the previous two games.

So, hopefully, tonight is a step forward in the game plan, where the players have the belief in the system, taking it on themselves to know that the manager wants them to pass it, but he also wants them to take chances with the ball when they are in the right positions.

If we can do that, we can cause Slovakia trouble.

The manager's message will be for the players to take responsibility in the final third.

You don't have to play it safe all the time, the players have to take the responsibility, there are times in the game when they have to go forward, to make runs or make space for other players, to make that final pass

It's up to the players to have the belief in their own ability to try it, to not be afraid of missing a chance or misplacing a pass.

Ireland can't worry about Slovakia: is Lobotka playing or not, is Hamsik fit? You have to put that out of your mind, it has to be about what is in our group.

They need to improve on the last two games, especially going forward and being more creative, play at a higher intensity. You need to see that belief.

Then it doesn't matter what Slovakia do, if we do that we'll go and win the game.

We have had periods where players were out of form at their clubs, not being picked, but that's not the case now. They are all in a good place at their clubs, they are decent clubs, and we should be able to go there and win.

Ireland looked tired and leggy last month, if they can get over that - and they should do - then they should win the game.

I believe they can do it and for the team, for Irish football, to progress, we need to win games like this. We can't fear nations like Slovakia any more.

They are a good side. We are hoping to be a very good side and if we are to progress, these are the games that can take you to the next level.