Tuesday 26 March 2019

O'Neill: Plenty of room to improve

MARTIN O'Neill put his final warm-up game before the opening blows in Euro 2016 behind him with a comfortable win over Oman. Now, he can't wait to get going in Georgia, writes Paul Hyland.

"It's been a long, long time coming," said Martin O'Neill afterwards. "A really long period. It's been 10 months and you'd think this day would never come."

"It starts on Sunday and it will be a long road and we're going to try and be prepared for it. Someone asked me would I have liked to have played my first 11 here (against Oman) but that would have been an impossibility.

O'Neill lost one of his likely starters early on yesterday when it became obvious that James McClean's ankle would not stand up to full contact footall.

"James is disappointed as he thinks he is further on. But my concern is while the injury has cleared up, he hasn't played too much contact football."

O'Neill was happy enough with the performance against Oman and glad that he chose to have a friendly fixture.

"I thought beforehand that we would need the game and I think it's true. It was nice to win but there is plenty of room for improvement going to Tbilisi - there are things to work on."

"If you want to win every friendly, play someone you can beat every time but I don't want that," he said.

O'Neill remains non-committal on the subject of his goalkeeper pick but was pleased with Shay Given's return even if he had nothing to do.

"He didn't have much to do. Someone asked if he was guaranteed a starting place but absolutely not. He did fine but he's not had much to do. But he's been excellent around the place and he's been very positive in terms of attitude."

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