Saturday 24 September 2016

Northern boss O'Neill tells players to be sensible in unusual derby

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has done an extremely good job since taking the hot seat
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has done an extremely good job since taking the hot seat

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is expecting a natural edge in today's closed-doors game with his team's southern rivals at the Aviva Stadium but thinks 'common sense' will be applied by the players with bigger fish to fry.

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O'Neill has done an extremely good job since taking the hot seat and Northern Ireland are in with an excellent chance of qualifying automatically for Euro 2016, sitting second in Group F at the halfway stage with a four-point gap back to third-placed Hungary.

They welcome leaders Romania to Belfast next week and he thinks the size of that match should serve as a natural deterrent to rash challenges that risk injury.

"These lads have it (competitive edge) naturally in their make-up and when you have that scenario of lads who play against each other often in a club football, you're always going to find that. But I think it'll be played with an element of common sense as well.

"We want to make sure that we have our strongest team available for Romania and that they're match-fit and that's the purpose of these games."

Commitment

O'Neill's charges drew with Qatar earlier this week and he is grateful to his counterpart - and namesake - Martin for accepting this game after Wales reneged on a commitment to play a match.

"It was at short notice," he said. "We were let down badly by Wales and Martin felt that the Republic would benefit from a game leading into the England game.

"Without all the necessary scrutiny or whatever, it's good to get working with your players and you'll get more out of a game than you will do out of training. We'll both benefit. For us, it's our second game and leads us nicely into the game against Romania."

Taking that into consideration, the former Shamrock Rovers boss reckons it's more likely that the visitors will field a stronger side because the hosts have the England game to come and this will be their chance to dust off the cobwebs.

"Martin has a big enough squad and he maybe will make more changes in the game than I'll do given he has a game against England," he continued. "I don't think there'll be rolling subs as such. It (lack of official status) will give us more flexibility as in a typical international you can only make six subs so if you change your 'keeper it leaves you with five outfield players playing 90 minutes.

"This is a very valuable part of our preparation and we'll be really looking at it make sure the team is right for the Romanian game. Our focus is on that. We'll not use the game necessarily to give people game-time for the sake of it."

Irish Independent

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