'I'm really sorry we couldn't see it through'- Martin O'Neill lauds Irish fans after France defeat
True to his word, Martin O’Neill didn’t attempt to mitigate Ireland’s loss to France in Lyon by invoking the perceived disadvantages the team were contending with beforehand.
Speaking to RTÉ in the moments prior to a taxing round of 16 clash with the ultimately ruthless hosts, Martin O’Neill clearly stated that his team were there to win and, regardless of a quick turnaround between games, a lack of tickets for Irish supporters or the searing heat, Ireland would live or die by their performance.
Indeed, they gave an incredible account of themselves in the opening 45 minutes, pressing and outplaying a side laden with elite talent.
Robbie Brady’s spot kick gave Ireland a lead they held for another 56 minutes, before a quick-fire brace from Antonie Griezmann ensured victory for Les Bleus.
Speaking again to RTÉ after the defeat, O’Neill lamented the three minute period in which the Atletico Madrid striker twice found the net.
“We got off to a really great start, we got the penalty deservedly so. I thought we could play into the bit of nervousness from them, and so it seemed.
“I know we grasp at these particular things but with those seven or eight minutes in the second half, if we could just see it out.
“They’d put us on the back foot which you would expect, they scored the goal that has given them the momentum. And, even then, at one each, we just lost a little bit of concentration in the game which is very, very important for us.
“We did absolutely splendidly but we knew they’d come at us. They made that substitution, the player from Bayern Munch (Kingsley Coman) came on, who was obviously a very decent player. But that aside, it didn’t really matter, and we were comfortable within ourselves and felt we could go on and win the game.”
As always with O’Neill, he lauded the endeavour of his players, while the only gripe the Derryman had, albeit a minor one, was their profligacy in possession.
He went on to thank the Irish supporters and, indeed, apologise for the unfavourable result.
“What was a wee bit disappointing was when we had it, we just gave it away a little bit too cheaply. It was a difficult game, I must admit but, physically, the players gave absolutely everything, as they did over all the games.
“We just took a little bit of time in the dressing room because they didn’t have anything else to give. It was a brilliant effort from the team and the supporters and I’m really sorry that we couldn’t see it through.”