herald

Tuesday 25 September 2018

New boss blown away by squad's spirit and energy

MARTIN O'NEILL has been blown away by the enthusiasm and energy shown by Ireland's best players, but he knows that he has much work to do to convert that into competitive points.

"I've been talking to the backroom staff and they tell me that the spirit has been here for some time. That would be their own particular view, that the players have always wanted to play," he said.

"I've found this enthusiasm to be really infectious. Players wanting to get out and train in the morning. The backroom staff say that this isn't new, in good times and bad times, it's really, really important.

"But there's loads of things to do. There's loads of things to work on and tomorrow night will show that. I don't want to put a damper on things."

O'Neill underlined the fact that Poland will present a very different challenge to Latvia and that Ireland's shape may well be different as a result.

"This will be a big test. Poland will have the ball. They went to Wembley and had loads of possession away from home. They will be disappointed and spurred on by losing to Chile.

"I'll make a few changes in the team, I'm not making excuses early on, but that might disrupt the rhythm a bit.

"The result is still important, the performance is important. We did exceptionally well on Friday evening, the players are desperate to play."

O'Neill sensed some residual disappointment among the players last Friday when the certainty of Ireland's absence from Brazil 2014 was underlined by play-off activity across the world.

"There would be a bit of disappointment on Friday afternoon when they were aware they could have been involved in the play-off with a bit of luck.

"I just felt that other than Friday and seeing the play-off matches when maybe there was a tinge of disappointment but time has passed and I didn't detect low morale.

"This game will be different. The home game was one to get everyone up and a bit of enthusiasm early on. The players responded and the crowd did too.

"I still want us to be positive when we have the ball. I want them to get on it as much as possible and try and perform to the same standard as they did the other night.

"It would be nice to do well. Everyone is up for it and prepared for it. It will be nice to have a better feel for the game, a better knowledge for me," concluded O'Neill.

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