Tuesday 27 September 2016

'The players put their hearts and souls into it' - Martin O'Neill lavishes praise on Ireland team

Tom Rooney

Published 08/10/2015 | 22:47

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill saluted his "super-sub" Shane Long after the Southampton striker's goal sealed victory over world champions Germany.

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A 1-0 success at the Aviva Stadium secured at least a play-off place in qualification for next summer's European Championship and O'Neill will now take his side to Poland knowing victory on Sunday would secure their passage to France.

He told Sky Sports 1: "Shane has come on against Poland (in March) and proved his worth (with a late equaliser), and I think at this minute the role suits him.

"When I get into the dressing room I'll say 'well done' to him because he's won the game for us."

Speaking to RTÉ after unquestionably the greatest result of his tenure, that sees Ireland behind second placed Poland only on goal difference, O’Neill was effusive in his praise of not just the endeavour of his squad but the unwavering support of those in attendance.

The Derryman also spoke of how his side adapted admirably to Shay Given’s knee injury, which saw him replaced by Darren Randolph just three minutes after the restart.

“The players put their heart and soul into the game obviously. With the injury problem to Shay, we had to make the change and Darren Randolph came in and did very well indeed.

“The whole team did magnificently, it was a great, great team effort, and Shane comes in off the bench and scores a wonder-goal.

“We had to withstand an awful lot of pressure as you’d expect; they are world champions. So, for us to win tonight it was a historic night, and the players deserve it.”

Of course, the vociferous wall of green that bayed on the Irish players without pause, were also in the manager’s thoughts.

“The crowd were with us tonight and that was great. Particularly in the last 15 minutes when we were hanging on, and players were out on their feet.”

Long may disagree with his manager's assessment, having minutes earlier expressed his disappointment at not starting the game.

He said: "I was upset but there are 25 players who all want to start. Everyone's putting pressure on the starting XI.

"The manager called me with 60 minutes gone and told me to go on and make an impact. I felt I could cause trouble on the break and thankfully I did that."

O'Neill at times seemed lost for words as he reflected on a momentous win for his side.

"It's an absolutely fantastic win," he said.

"We showed bravery in the second half and had to withstand a lot of pressure. We have beaten the world champions tonight and that shouldn't be taken away from players.

"We have a big match against Poland now but one way or another, at least we've reached the play-off and we've something to go for on Sunday."

Captain John O'Shea added: "We wanted to get it back in our hands and now we've stepped up again tonight and showed we can go on to get automatic qualification.

"(Poland have) got some good players but we've shown tonight we can mix it with the best."

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