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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Skipper Coleman: 'Focus is on victory not friendships at Lansdowne'

Seamus Coleman during squad training
Seamus Coleman during squad training
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

Welsh football appears to have stuffed the 'Together. Stronger' motto into their kitbag and adopted it all for themselves since their exploits in France last summer.

But Seamus Coleman, who captains Ireland against the Welsh at Lansdowne Road this evening, appears to be a bit fed up with the pre-match talk of how strong and powerful the visitors are and has reminded everyone that Wales, despite having a two-time Champions League winner in their side, come to Dublin a significant four points behind the boys in green. "We feel we're going into this game with more confidence than in the previous campaign," says Coleman, about to win his 43rd senior cap this evening.

"I've said before the Euros has brought us all closer together. We're a good team with good players and we're playing good football. And we're top of the group.

"There is a lot of talk about Wales but I think they're going to be in for a game as well."

Coleman has a lot in common with some of those in the away dressing room tonight - Wales captain Ashley Williams is a team-mate at Everton, for starters, and Coleman has of course played against Bale in the Premier League.

The two skippers for this evening both know that their teams are not an overnight success. Around the time that Martin O'Neill took over an Irish side (November 2013) bruised by the painful end of the Trapattoni era, Wales were also suffering: around that time the Welsh were on a run of three losses and a draw in four games, a dull 0-0 draw with Ireland in Cardiff the only time they avoided defeat.

"Look, when the manager came we were probably in a sticky spell but slowly but surely we started to get that confidence and started to win games, some very big games, going back to Shane Long's goal against Germany and then the night in Bosnia and the Italy game," says Coleman.

"All them games gave us confidence and make you come in thinking you can beat most teams that you play. That's definitely the case. Obviously Wales have their own story as well, they had a great Euros and got some good players coming through. It's a great tie for the neutral."

Coleman was stony-faced when asked if there would be any pre-match banter with club-mate Williams. If he's true to his word, Coleman will be a captain more in the Roy Keane mould - eyes on the prize, no joking - instead of the awful stuff we see at times, like Mario Balotelli and Pepe exchanging shirts at half-time.

Winners

"I'll be fully focused. I'll have the green shirt on not the blue shirt. That's my full focus. I've got to know Ashley quite well at club level, he's a great lad but he's a winner as well. Once I've got that green shirt on, that's all I care about. Fully focused," said Coleman, aware that fellow Goodison Park man Williams may struggle to cope with Shane Long.

"I think Shane Long can cause any centre half in the world problems. Someone with that speed and that leap is dangerous for anyone and obviously Ashley is a club mate and we're doing quite well this season. But yeah, Shane Long is capable of causing anyone problems."

We presume that Keane, as a former captain, has had the off chat with Coleman about his duties as team skipper, possibly why Coleman was so dismissive of the suggestion that he'd be all pally with Williams in the build up to the game, even if Coleman wanted to engage in high-fives and bear hugs with the opposing captain, Keane would have a word and remind Coleman of his own dealings with the likes of Patrick Vieira back in the day.

"Yeah, it's great having Roy around. He knows what it means to put on the green shirt. Between Roy and the manager, the first thing that comes to mind is that they're winners so it's ideal for us players to look up to," added Coleman.

"If things are getting a bit sloppy around the place, we'll be told, that's what it's all about, even the likes of John O'Shea who has been there and done it. All the experience we can get is better.

"We've a few injuries but there are players desperate to put on that green shirt and perform. We're really looking forward to this game."

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