Tuesday 27 September 2016

Martin O'Neill highlights one area where Ireland must improve against Bosnia

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and coach Steve Guppy during squad training. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and coach Steve Guppy during squad training. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Martin O'Neill will impose a 'D-notice' on his players in the cauldron of the Stadion Bilino Polje in Zenica tomorrow night.

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That's 'D' for Discipline and it will be a key factor in what is effectively a two-leg cup final with the prize of Euro 16 qualification at stake.

O'Neill wants the Boys in Green to combine passion and desire with cool heads in Ireland's first competitive clash against Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is a tall order against a home side which will do all they can to rattle the visitors physically and mentally.

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Already Jon Walters and John O'Shea are ruled out of the first leg by suspension after being booked and sent off respectively against Poland last month, with the centre-half also doubtful for Monday's return leg due to injury. On top of that, key players Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Wes Hoolahan, Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson are one booking away from being forced to sit out the Dublin decider.

The Ireland manager wants to face into the second leg with every possible option, particularly with the short turnaround between games, so he does not need players to concede cheap bookings.

"I think more so than ever, discipline is really important for us. It is worth emphasising to a large degree. It really is.

"You don't want to have somebody getting a silly booking after 10 or 15 minutes in the match and then being on the edge for the whole game.

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"These things can still happen but if you can avoid it at all … it's discipline in every aspect of it, the discipline of knowing what your job is and doing it to best of your ability," said O'Neill.

His Bosnia & Herzegovina counterpart Mehmed Bazdarevic could well be issuing the same directive to his own players as UEFA has appointed a strict referee to officiate in the first leg.

Germany's Felix Brych will take charge of the match and yesterday the 'Sarajevo Times' highlighted his recent record on displaying yellow and red cards.

Wes Hoolahan is one of five Ireland players who will miss the second leg if they’re booked tomorrow
Wes Hoolahan is one of five Ireland players who will miss the second leg if they’re booked tomorrow

Brych took charge of three Champions League games so far this year - Celtic v Malmo (six yellow cards in total), Dynamo Kiev v Porto (six yellows), and Lyon v Zenit (seven players booked, including one from each side sent off for a second yellow card offence).

His most recent Bundesliga assignment last weekend saw the German whistler flash the yellow card seven times Borussia Dortmund defeated Schalke in the Ruhr derby.

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Clearly, this is an experienced official who will not tolerate dissent or foul play, so that places an extra premium on walking the line between fire and ice in terms of discipline. Bazdarevic could lose main men Miralem Pjanic, Edin Dzeko, Asmir Begovic and Emir Spahic if they go into the book. O'Neill refused to be drawn on the likely make up of his team, although his options have narrowed because of injuries and suspension.

"I don't think I'd want to go into that. I think that our job is to go out there and try to score a goal.

"You have to balance the whole thing about what is good for you offensively, and obviously making sure that you're as strong as possible defensively as well.

"We're missing John (O'Shea) and we have to compensate for that in some aspects.

"I'll take those things into consideration, but it's not just the going forward part of the game that's important, it's obviously what we do when we don't have the ball," he said.

The manager will not ask suspended Walters or O'Shea to travel to Zenica in order to keep them fresh and to give the Sunderland man every chance of recovering from his hamstring injury.

"My own view is that while I think it would be great to have them around the place for spirit and morale, I think that travelling out there and coming back would be just as tiring for them as for the players who played, so I think it would be best if they didn't do that.

"If John is feeling okay then he can join up with us on Saturday and Jon Walters, who has done a couple of days here, is free to go back to Stoke and he'll join up with us again on Saturday.

"As much as we'd love him to be there, as they'd would like to be there, in terms of getting prepared for the Monday game, I think that's the best way," said O'Neill.

He also confirmed that he will not call on Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot, whose manager Steve McClaren wants 'wrapped in cotton wool' due to the goalkeeper crisis at St James' Park.

O'Neill yesterday called up Stephen Henderson of Charlton Athletic as a replacement for Keiren Westwood, whose niggling ankle injury flared up again in training yesterday. The Sheffield Wednesday keeper returned to his club once it was confirmed he would not be fit for duty.

Alan Judge received treatment for a hamstring injury at his club, Brentford, before traveling to Dublin last night.

Irish Independent

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