Monday 15 July 2019

Martin O'Neill delivers positive injury update on Jon Walters

Ireland's Daryl Murphy (left) and Jonathan Walters during a training session on Saturday
Ireland's Daryl Murphy (left) and Jonathan Walters during a training session on Saturday

Daniel McDonnell in Lyon

IRELAND have no intention of going quietly from Euro 2016.

That was Martin O'Neill's message today ahead of tomorrow's round of 16 showdown with hosts and favourites France in Lyon.

The Irish boss admitted that the quick turnaround from Wednesday's heroic win over Italy has meant that preparations have consisted of video work and recovery orientated light training sessions for his main men.

However, he stressed that his group will be ready to peak again tomorrow afternoon and put in a strong effort against a French outfit that has been preparing for the tie since a dead rubber draw with Switzerland last Sunday. The character that carried Ireland through against the Azzurri has strengthened his belief.

"You wouldn't want to head out of the competition meekly," said the 64-year-old. "You want to go out there blazing if we can and try and stay in it because we feel we can do something.

"Rest was the most important thing for us since Wednesday, for the players who played at that game at that level and intensity and keeping that energy up for 90 minutes. We'll go through a couple of video things but, outside of that, it's just a matter of ticking over. That's tournament football.

"I think that the mental toughness has been very, very important for us. I  think that Robbie Brady goal probably epitomised the spirit we have; he started the move himself and he was brave even though he'd been crushed at Norwich a couple of months previously (Brady lost teeth in an aerial collision in March)

"We keep talking about spirit, but we have some players who can play too who've come of age. Robbie has been terrific, Jeff Hendrick has been great, which they had to be because you couldn't play that well and get four points if we hadn't some players who can play."

Staying in the competition has given Jonathan Walters an opportunity to make an unlikely return and he trained with the group at the match venue.

Stephen Ward also rejoined proceedings having sat out Friday's session due to the kick on the ankle he suffered in Lille.

"He (Ward) is improving which is good news," said O'Neill. "Jon has done very well in the last two days and we will have a look."

A positive message from the medics for Ward would allow O'Neill to name an unchanged side and keep Brady in midfield, but he declined to go into detail on whether he planned to make changes. The availability of Walters - even if it was restricted to a role as sub - would be a significant boost to the Irish camp.

O'Neill said that he has been impressed by France so far, stating that they reminded him of the side which won the competition in 1998. That side won their round of 16 game after extra-time and then prevailed in the quarter finals after a penalty shoot-out with Italy.

The Derryman has practised penalties with his group in case this encounter goes all the way.

"If we do get to penalties, then there are at least three players who I know won't take them because they haven't been able to hit the target too often," smiled O'Neill. "In all honesty, the players have wanted to take penalties, including the goalkeepers.

"I wonder what it will be like if we do get to a shoot-out. I've seen really great players come to penalty shoot-outs in European Cup finals and down tools and not take them. In our case, I think it will depend who is on the pitch. We've done as much as we possibly can in that aspect."

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