Monday 26 September 2016

Martin O'Neill: 'The players are in there talking about how the fans drove them on'

Published 22/06/2016 | 22:45

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (right) and assistant Roy Keane celebrate qualifying for the round of 16
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (right) and assistant Roy Keane celebrate qualifying for the round of 16

An ecstatic Martin O’Neill hailed his heroic team and the fans following Ireland’s 1-0 win over Italy in Lille.

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Robbie Brady scored the all-important goal six minutes from time but there were heroes all over the pitch on a historic night for the Boys In Green.

“The whole performance was fantastic. We deserved to win the game. I thought Wes was going to do it for us then he spurned that chance and then we came up big again.

“Robbie Brady, who is a really terrific player, and he went in very bravely and we deserved to win.”

Despite witnessing Hoolahan’s guilt-edged chance moments earlier, O’Neill admitted that he knew Brady would score once he saw Hoolahan’s delivery float into the Italian box.

“I don’t think that he was ever going to miss. He has just gone in as brave as anything.  It didn’t matter if he was going to get thumped by the goalkeeper, he has just gone with it. He deserved it and the team deserved it and the fans deserved it.

“The fans are just unbelievable. They kept us going, the players are talking about it in the dressing room. They kept us going throughout the evening and I thought the players kept the fans going as well.”

Ireland’s 3-0 defeat against Belgium meant that it was all or nothing for the Boys In Green and O’Neill says he was confident there was a big performance left in this team.

“I knew that (that there was a big performance in the team). We played so well against Sweden in the first game, didn’t get the rewards in the match and maybe the Belgium game came too quickly for us.

“There is a big spirit in there. I said to you before spirit alone doesn’t get you (results). We have an enormous spirit in the dressing room, enormous spirit.

“To dominate for as long as we did and to play as well as we did throughout the 90 minutes, it was fantastic.”

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