Martin O'Neill: We're still in contention for Euro qualification
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill insisted his side were ‘still in contention’ for Euro 2016 qualification despite their failure to get three points against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
O’Neill hinted before the game that his side needed to pick up all three points against Gordon Strachan’s men to build some momentum in Euro 2016 Group D, but his side failed to build on a first half opener from Jon Walters as they allowed the Scots to clambered back on level terms shortly after the break.
“We are still well in this competition,” O’Neill told RTE. “Scotland have some difficult games coming up, so there is plenty to play for.
“It makes is more difficult for us to qualify of course because it maintains the status quo in the group with Scotland. We are still in contention.
“We had a chance there to win the game and we have spurned that because we could not get enough goals.
“We dominated the first half, got ourselves in front and the goal we have conceded is desperately poor as it was going a mile wide until the deflection.”
O’Neill defended his decision to replaced the impressive Wes Hoolahan with Robbie Keane after 73 minutes, as he insisted the veteran striker needed to be given a run off the bench,
“Wes did very, very well in the match, but Robbie is our best goal scorer and there was a chance of him getting a goal,” argued O’Neill.
“The players were all getting tired in the final stages of the game and even though we pushed for a winner, we could not get the final breakthrough we needed.
“Wes did very well for us, but I felt Robbie could make a difference and we had to give him a chance, as well as Shane Long in the closing stages.
Meanwhile RTE pundit, Eamon Dunphy suggested O’Neill has found the Ireland job tough, as he suggested the former Celtic boss has lost some of his fire as a manager.
“The O’Neill of old had a fire in his belly, but I didn’t see that against Scotland,” stated Dunphy. “He will be disappointed with the job he has done with Ireland.
“He is a legendary figure in the history of Celtic football club, but what can he do from here with Ireland? Realistically, we are out of this competition now.”
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan was satisfied with his side’s 1-1 draw against what he described as the Irish ‘warriors, but he was keen to play down the significance of the result that keeps his side two points ahead of one of their chief Euro 2016 rivals.
A Shaun Maloney shot that deflected into the Ireland goal via John O’Shea’s back gave the Scots a draw that leaves them in pole position to secure a top three finish in qualifying Group D, which would secure them a play-off place at the very least.
“They are warriors, they stick in there and they made it difficult for us,” said Strachan. “You don’t normally see matches with that intensity in June, when football people tend to be on their holidays.
“We had to have a wee change of tactics at half-time and we played much better after the break. We are still in with a good chance of qualifying and after playing a good number of games now, that is terrific work from my lads.
Scotland striker Maloney admitted his side needed to change their approach at the break as they looked to bounce back from a disappointing opening 45 minutes against the Republic of Ireland in their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin.
Maloney answered the call once again as after scoring the winner against the Irish in Glasgow back in November, his deflected shot earned the Scots a valuable point in the return meeting on a day when Gordon Strachan’s men were not at their best.
“Going a goal behind, we have to say the draw is a good result,” the Chicago Fire striker told Sky Sports. “We move on to the next time in September and what will be another two big games.
“We were allowed them far too much possession in the first half and we needed to press them more. We did that in the second half and it made things a lot easier for us.”