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Time at Villa Park gave Dunne view of O'Neill at work


Martin O’Neill patrols the sideline in Belgrade. Photo by Alex Nicodim/Sportsfile

Martin O’Neill patrols the sideline in Belgrade. Photo by Alex Nicodim/Sportsfile

Martin O’Neill patrols the sideline in Belgrade. Photo by Alex Nicodim/Sportsfile

He has a lot of time for Martin O'Neill, Richard Dunne. Time shared at Villa Park formed his opinion.

He saw no frills in O'Neill's tactical approach. In fact he didn't really see tactics at all.

"He was very good. That was the big thing about him. When I signed, me and James Collins signed on the same day. We were playing Birmingham.

"We both went away on international duty and came back and played Birmingham on our debut. We were like 'what are the tactics for corners and where should we be marking?'.

"He just said 'the size of the two of you, just go and head the ball away' and that was it. To anyone else, like the midfielders, he was 'what do you expect me to say, just go and play'.

"He said 'I bought you because I thought you were a good player so just go and do it'. That was as far as tactics went. You two are the biggest, so just head it. You two are the fastest, so just run with it and it's just the way it was," said Dunne.

"He probably wouldn't say an awful lot throughout the week but come the match, you would honestly feel 10 foot tall going out.

"He would tell you you are the best player. He would go around and would probably tell the other centre half 'you're the best centre half I've ever seen'. You got energy off him and he was brilliant like that.

"But if you didn't play well or there was a mistake, you would know about it and you would still know about it in six months time. He would keep showing videos and videos and you probably wouldn't play," added the former Ireland international.

"He could completely push you aside and it's like 'I told you this, and I not to do that, you're no use to me'. That's the way he was but he rewarded you and you felt positive off him when things were going well

Dunne has no doubt he is good for Ireland.

"I think he's been brilliant. for tournament football and short spells together where I'm sure the staff he has will concentrate on the details of training, but come the match all you want to do is feel positive about yourself going onto the pitch.

For that reason, Dunne does not accept any suggestion that O'Neill was negative in any way about Ireland's approach before kick-off against Serbia.

"There is no way he said to them, try and score an early goal and then sit back and absorb the pressure and see what we can get out of the match.

"It is just the way the game panned out. The problem they had was that they dropped off too early. Defensively they started dropping deeper and deeper and deeper. And if you can just be brave enough for 15 minutes to push up again."

"Your natural thing is to defend what you have got. Step back a yard, step back another yard and you end up defending on the edge of your box.

"Throughout my career there were always managers saying push up. When you are playing you think, 'you can't push up because they will definitely get behind us and score'.

"It is just about being brave to try and push up. The likes of John O'Shea, who has been in this situation, he will know that you have to push up. It is a mentality thing.

"By squeezing up just five yards, putting men up high on top of their defenders, we are making their keeper kick the first ball long.

"Hopefully the centre halves are good enough to win the ball in the air, hopefully the second ball can be won in midfield.

"Instead of them having ten passes and getting straight to your box, you can change the pattern of the game straight away."