Wednesday 20 September 2017

'We did a lot better than we did in Poland,' says St Ledger

Sean St. Ledger turns to celebrate scoring against Spain before having the goal disallowed
Sean St. Ledger turns to celebrate scoring against Spain before having the goal disallowed

Daniel McDonnell in New York

SEAN ST LEDGER had just finished a frenzied celebration routine with three team-mates when the linesman delivered some bad news.

The 28-year-old thought he had scored a famous equaliser 11 minutes from time at the Yankee Stadium when he picked up the pieces from a stunning Iker Casillas stop to deny Stephen Kelly. Alas, he was unaware that Simon Cox had helped turn the ball in his direction.

"He [linesman] could have told me earlier and I wouldn't have looked silly celebrating away," said St Ledger, with a rueful smile. "It was about five minutes after I had scored. But it was actually a really good decision having seen it again."

As a survivor from last year's thrashing in Poland, this was a happier experience for the centre half. He believes this Spain side should pick up a fourth successive major tournament win in Brazil next summer and, in that context, he was enthused by Ireland's spirited display in a 2-0 defeat.

"We did a lot better than we did in Poland," he said. "When you go in 0-0 at half time, it's obviously a bonus. You are always up against it because they keep so much of the ball and you just hope you get a break-away or you can maybe get a corner and hopefully get a goal.

"They are an unbelievable side for hanging onto the ball but they do that to nearly every team in the world. We watched highlights of the France game and the possession stats were probably nearly the same here so it's not just us.

"You look at the players they're bringing off, and they are bringing on Mata and Cazorla, who are playing for top-four Premier League sides. They wear you down. It's not as bad for the centre-halves as it is for the midfielders because they don't pass the ball into the strikers as much. It's all interchanging in the midfield and I felt for some of the boys in there, to be honest with you."

After a draw with England at Wembley and comfortable wins over Georgia and the Faroe Islands, St Ledger will reflect positively on this summer window.

The defender believes the momentum can propel Ireland into autumn with realistic hopes of finishing second in Group C. Sweden's win over the Faroe Islands last night means that Austria, Ireland and the Scandinavians go into September level on points, with Giovanni Trapattoni's men having the worst goal difference.

"I looked on the table just before we got on the coach. It's very tight and we know what's ahead of us," he continued. "We have Sweden at home and Austria away and that's going to define the group now. Our away performances have been very good under the manager and hopefully we can get the results. It would be great to finish second and then have a chance of getting into the World Cup."

After he finished media duties, St Ledger headed off into the New York night with the rest of his Ireland team-mates but he has a few things on his mind before he can relax and enjoy a summer break after Leicester told him he could leave.

"I'm waiting to see if I can go for free," he said. "I've got a year left on my contract. I'm not aware of any interest and I've been trying to concentrate on these games. But it's good to be back playing football again [after a long injury ruined his season] and there's no better stage than to play against the world's best players. It was fantastic."


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