O'Neill keen to banish bad memories
Published 01/06/2015 | 19:16
Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill is hoping to erase memories of the "debacle" of 1995 when England return to Dublin on Sunday.
It is 20 years since a section of the travelling supporters at Lansdowne Road forced the abandonment of the last game in the city between the two nations in a shameful riot after Ireland took the lead.
This time around, O'Neill is hoping the far more cordial atmosphere in which a 1-1 draw at Wembley was played out in May 2013 will be repeated as the Republic attempt to hone themselves for the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium by pitching themselves into battle with Roy Hodgson's men.
He said: "It's 20 years ago since the last debacle - I call it a debacle because that's exactly what it was. Hopefully life has moved on since then.
"Of course it's a big game and it obviously has historic interest.
"It's a great game for us to be involved in - and I've said that since it's been announced - really great, as we have a game against Scotland the following week and, barring injury, it will be great preparation for us considering some of the players will not have played for about a month.
"Fitness, whatever you think and how well they are looking after themselves, it will drop a little so that's what this week is about, building up to that, building up to the England game and then forcing it against Scotland."
O'Neill and the bulk of his players met up in Malahide on Monday as June announced itself with howling winds and driving rain, and they will be joined over the next few days by Marc Wilson, Shane Long, Wes Hoolahan, Stephen Ward, Aiden McGeady, Jon Walters and, after LA Galaxy's clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, skipper Robbie Keane.
Defender Paul McShane was the only one of those present not to train as he continued to nurse a badly-gashed leg.
McShane, of course, was a member of the Hull squad, along with David Meyler, Robbie Brady and Stephen Quinn, who suffered relegation from the Barclays Premier League on May 24, while Derby contingent Richard Keogh, Cyrus Christie and Jeff Hendrick and Ipswich duo Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick missed out on promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.
O'Neill is aware some of those wounds will still be raw, and he knows he and his coaching staff may have to lift players over the next few days.
He said: "There will be some pretty disappointed with how the season ended, those playing at Hull obviously. That would have been a real downer for them.
"There were one or two others who didn't make the play-offs as well in the Championship - the Derby players would be particularly disappointed.
"But that's club level, that's gone now. It's a matter of just lifting the players, getting them prepared for this game.
"It's a big game for us, it's a great game as well to be involved in. It gives us a really big match to be playing in before Scotland, and England are obviously on the crest of a wave.
"Of course the England friendly game is a big, big game, but it's exactly that, a friendly match. It gives us the opportunity the week before Scotland to prepare for that. Scotland, of course, is the ultimate."
Murphy's last game was Ipswich's 3-1 play-off semi-final, second leg defeat by East Anglian rivals Norwich on May 16, a gap of more than a fortnight, although he is happy to be knuckling down once again at the end of the long season.
The 32-year-old said: "It's all part of being a professional footballer and having the honour of playing for your country. I have a few weeks off - I took a little break and relaxed. I did a bit of training, but I'm back at it now and we've got a week now.
"There's obviously rivalry - it's a friendly, but both teams are going to want to win it. They (England) are coming here and hopefully we will put on a good display and get something out of it."