| 0.6°C Dublin

relieved O'Neill rolls up his sleeves


SHAKEN and definitely stirred, Martin O'Neill must be more than relieved that he was travelling in Roy Keane's Range Rover when an M50 shunt gave him a glimpse of his own mortality.

Nothing better than a small house on wheels when cars collide.

Important as Saturday's game against Scotland is, the raw and very scary reality of a motorway prang which left the car which collided with O'Neill in bits left the Ireland manager in quiet and reflective mood when he told the story.

He was stirred alright "Stirred and the young lad's car is a write-off after he smashed into the back of us," he said.

"I'm fine. I'm okay I'm alright, I'm alive, and unfortunately for you, I'm going to stay alive! They tell me these things take a bit of time so I'll tell you in two years' time," said with a wry grin.

Sometimes O'Neill must really wonder about his time as Ireland manager and the range of extraneous events which have rolled across his desk. When someone asked him whether he felt he was living in a soap opera, he could barely contain his laughter.

Given Keane's ability to hog the headlines and now the circus around FAI CEO John Delaney, this tale has plot lines which leave Fair City and Corrie in the shade.


Keane brought O'Neill to Cobh on Monday and they spent some time at the fantastic Lusitania display there and visited Rockmount. Quite a bit of his press conference yesterday was devoted to a history lesson about the great ship and it lifted the mood.

Then down to business.

"Robbie's arrived. He's getting over the trip. I don't think he thought he was going to play the 90 minutes but they were chasing the game and he was kept on," he said. "So he's done a little bit but I will see how he is after it. Obviously, he's just getting over the trip."

Keane was pressed into service for a full 90 minutes for LA Galaxy against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday and is struggling to be fully fit.

O'Neill has already highlighted Ireland's problems with goals this week, but this time he wanted to accentuate the positive.

"I think that if you look at the games that we've played, if you take into consideration the late winning goal against Georgia, the win against Gibraltar, tie that into mostly fighting a rear-guard action against the Germans on their own pitch but never really being out of the game, they weren't really able to put us away, therefore we were able to fight back.

"And you look at the Scotland game when anything could have happened, their goalkeeper's made a decent save just before they've scored and very little separated the two sides.

"From that viewpoint, it might be, hopefully, not a similar game. Maybe it will be, but there shouldn't be too much between us and I think the players overall have performed admirably in the competition."

With Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, Wes Hoolahan and Glenn Whelan, who missed Glasgow, all available, does O'Neill feel he is better equipped?

"I'm pleased to have them around, absolutely. Yes, of course, because we feel as if we're a stronger squad because of it and I think that's right. They have great experience as well and I think that sort of experience should be important in a game like this.

"There's pressure in football now anyway so you just accept that. To play well under pressure, to throw the shackles off and play as strong as we can - I think that if we do that I think we'll win.

"Don't be tense, although that's easier said than done. Of course there is going to be tension around the place.

"The same will apply for Scotland as well so it's about putting that tension aside. A lot of these players have been in these sort of situations before.

"If Scotland beat us then there's a gap of five points and with four games left, that might be hard to pull back.

"Let us not minimise the importance of the game. Do I think that if we win the game that's it, all guns blazing? Not at all, we've matches (still) to negotiate.

"And if there's no result in the game, does that mean it's the status quo? No, (it'd) advantage Scotland still because they've now played us and that particular challenge is gone. So it's up to us to win.


"It's still in our hands, still firmly in our hands so let's try and take it.

"We've got to apply some pressure and we've got to try and get on the front foot early in the game and establish some sort of foothold.

O'Neill has highlighted the second-half performance against Poland which eventually helped secure a last-gasp and precious point as the standard he will set.

"If we could start like that in the game, if we could get ourselves going and try and get the first goal rather than chasing things, that will give ourselves a chance," he said.

rep of ireland