O’Neill rues loss of German 'intensity' as Lewandowski sparks Polish celebrations
Published 12/10/2015 | 02:30
Martin O'Neill believes that an absence of the intensity that drove the shock win over Germany was the cause for a missed opportunity in Poland as Robert Lewandowski inspired the hosts to Euro 2016 qualification in delirious Warsaw.
But the Ireland manager hinted that he expected more from the players he brought into a side featuring five changes from Thursday's heroics in the Aviva.
O'Neill will now have to lift his troops after a 2-1 defeat which condemns Ireland to a play-off where they are likely to be unseeded unless they receive favours from elsewhere.
The task is complicated by suspensions for Jonathan Walters and John O'Shea with the latter sent off after receiving a second yellow in the dying stages and Walters - who scored Ireland's first-half penalty - picking up his third booking of the campaign.
"We didn't have the same intensity and that's pretty natural after the short turnaround away from home, it was hard to replicate that effort" said O'Neill, who could only use Wes Hoolahan for the last 20 minutes as he was feeling the effects of various ailments.
However, when asked specifically about the impact made by the fresh players who he pitched into the fray, he did not disagree with the premise that they should have helped to recharge the batteries.
"That's a point of consideration for me," he said. Glenn Whelan and James McClean returned from bans to a changed midfield and both were sacrificed in the second half as Ireland went in search of the equaliser that would have put them through.
Key man Shane Long was also stretchered off after a tackle that enraged the 63-year-old. But he says his players are capable of regrouping and joining Poland in France even if they have to do it the hard way.
"I think the message is still pretty clear, we are still there," he said. "We had this opportunity, some people talked about it like a free hit but I never saw it like that. I saw it as an opportunity to go there and cement our place, I'm disappointed we didn't manage that but we have two games to go and the players will be ready.
"I'll have a little look at the teams we can play," said O'Neill, who was disappointed with O'Shea for his unnecessary injury time foul on Lewandowski but hit out at UEFA for the disciplinary system that punished Walters.