Saturday 1 October 2016

Revenge is not on our minds - Martin O'Neill insists

Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30

Martin O'Neill won't be concerned over talk of Thierry Henry's infamous handball
Martin O'Neill won't be concerned over talk of Thierry Henry's infamous handball

Martin O'Neill insists that revenge for the controversial defeat to France in 2009 will not be used as motivation for Sunday's showdown in Lyon.

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It will be the first meeting between the nations since Thierry Henry's infamous handball decided the World Cup play-off, and that angle is dominating local media coverage of the round of 16 tie.

O'Neill believes that it's now a bigger issue for France than it is in Ireland.

"Naturally it's going to be a talking point," said O'Neill yesterday. "I think the Irish fans have been in such good humour that it will be a jocular kind of thing.

"I wouldn't have thought we would be using it as an incendiary force to get on with things."

When it was put to O'Neill that the locals appear to feel guilt over the incident, he quipped "Why shouldn't they?" before lightening the mood.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill insists his side are not seeking revenge against France over the Thierry Henry handball. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill insists his side are not seeking revenge against France over the Thierry Henry handball. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

"It's still causing some controversy, maybe more so in France. I think we have decided to forget about it," he said. "And that's some doing coming from Ireland. I don't think it will concern us when we play the game."

O'Neill's side are set to travel to Lyon later today with a limited window for preparation compared to Didier Deschamps' favourites, who concluded Group A duties on Sunday.

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The main concern for the manager is left-back Stephen Ward after the foot injury he sustained in the first half of the epic win over Italy that kept Ireland in the competition. Jon Walters is also battling the odds to make an unlikely return from an Achilles problem.

O'Neill hailed the Italian efforts and said the changes made by Antonio Conte should not detract from the result.

"We were not playing against a very ordinary side," he said. "We were playing against a lot of talented players who I thought had a point to prove.

"In fact, I would have preferred to have played against the (Italian) side who had played two games and had a lack of energy."

Irish Independent

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