O'Neill rues taking early lead on night to remember
Published 30/09/2011 | 05:00
MICHAEL O'NEILL is a realist. Taking the lead at White Hart Lane didn't turn the Northern Irishman into a dreamer.
Part of him wished that Stephen Rice had waited a little longer to produce a moment of magic.
"I kept looking at the clock," said the Shamrock Rovers manager, when asked about the minutes after the midfielder shocked Spurs.
"There was a long way to go. I would have much preferred had it stayed at 0-0 until the 89th minute, because we knew there'd be a reaction when we scored. You do start to think we can see this out until the end, but ultimately Spurs' pace and freshness overcame us."
He knew there would be pats on the back and praise for the gallant losers. Yet he retains a desire and belief that points can be accrued.
Opposite number Harry Redknapp admitted that he spent the minutes after Rice's goal wondering if it was "going to be one of those nights." Sending Luka Modric into action was on his mind until Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermaine Defoe and Giovani dos Santos struck in a six-minute spell to put the result beyond doubt.
Redknapp believes the Hoops can take something from this journey.
"I think they'll get a result somewhere," he said. "They had chances in the first game we watched (against Rubin Kazan) and they've got the Greek side (PAOK) to play at home. Michael has done a great job with Jim Magilton's help. And they had great support as well, we'll look forward to the atmosphere in Ireland."
The Spurs boss was happy with his team's first-half display; he grew animated after Rice's goal, because he had warned his side not to concede set-pieces around the box.
"I had no problem with the tempo," he said, "Without being disrespectful to Shamrock Rovers, we could have been three goals up at half-time. We've hit the woodwork and their goalkeeper is making saves. We played some good stuff and I thought then it was a matter of time. Then they went scored and you wonder."
His team responded, however, and Redknapp was able to spend the second part of his post-match reflections answering queries on Sunday's joust with Arsenal.
O'Neill, on the other hand, prepares for the visit of Drogheda to Tallaght Stadium. He will rejig his options again, with some of his charges sure to be drained from their exertions. Rice came in for special praise.
With a league title run-in to come over the next month, O'Neill hopes that the positives from this experience will drive the players on -- and the fans as well. "It was a fantastic night," he said. "And we had fantastic support that stayed with the team. To have that travelling support was a credit to the league."
So, too, was the performance of his players.