Friday 9 December 2016

Martin O'Neill has good news on Keane and Walters but will hold off on naming starting 11

John Brennan in Paris

Published 12/06/2016 | 17:45

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill watches on during squad training in Versailles
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill watches on during squad training in Versailles

Martin O'Neill knows his team for tomorrow's Euro 2016 opener against Sweden in Paris. But he will wait until the mandatory hour before the kick-off to tell anyone.

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"I have a team in mind alright," said the Irish manager at the pre-match Press Conference, "but I don't see any harm in deliberating on certain things.

"Robbie Keane and Jon Walters were carrying injuries when I was picking the 23, but they're fine now. So I'll just take that extra time to think about things when it comes to picking the 11, but I do have a team in mind."

Whatever about revealing his team, O'Neill couldn't contain his desire to get into tournament action.

"We're raring to go," he added. "It's been a long wait since November and the play-off when we qualified. We celebrated then, but now we're impatient to get going and do something here."

If he has a team to face Sweden, it may not be the side to play in every game at Euro 2016.

Robbie Keane with Wes Hoolahan, Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady in action during squad training in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Robbie Keane with Wes Hoolahan, Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady in action during squad training in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

"I think we have a squad capable of coping with three games in ten days, it'll be a bit like going back to club football where the games come thick and fast and maybe you have to pick a team with an eye on another match. But there's no point in talking about the second game until the first one is out of the way."

Inevitably, team captain Robbie Keane was reminded that this will be Ireland's first match in the Stade de France since the Thierry Henry handball of 2009.

"I hadn't thought about it at all. I'm not one to dwell on the past, as a footballer you have to put defeats out of your mind quickly and that one was almost seven years ago.

"We're here now with a different bunch of lads," said the Irish skipper.

"And it was a different bunch of lads again in 2012, when we went in thinking positively.  But as it turned out the two finalists (Spain and Italy) were in our group and it didn't happen for us. We got one goal and no points.

"That's just the way it goes in football, but we're here to play and win, the lads are excited and we've had a great few weeks training."

O'Neill finished by condemning the scenes in Marseille on Saturday night after the England-Russia match. "It was pretty shocking, I thought we'd seen the end of trouble like that at football matches. But if people are setting out to cause trouble, then they will start it regardless."

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