Wednesday 11 December 2019

'Thierry Henry handball is more of an issue for the French than the Irish' - Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill won't be concerned over talk of Thierry Henry's infamous handball
Martin O'Neill won't be concerned over talk of Thierry Henry's infamous handball

Paul Hyland

Martin O'Neill has shrugged off the Thierry Henry handball controversy and suggested that it is a bigger issue for the French than Irish fans.

The Ireland boss also noted the time France will have to prepare for Sunday's game in Lyon but accepted that as tournament hosts, they were always likely to have some advantages over visiting teams.

"It does seem a disproportionate amount of time that one team has to recover from another. In this context, three is a lot of days," O'Neill said.

"But understand as the host nation, you should get some particular favours. If the competition was in Ireland I would do exactly the same. I would have the teams that play Ireland play every single night and we wouldn't have to play for a year," he laughs.

"Thierry Henry is still causing some controversy, maybe more so in France than it is in Ireland'" he said.

"I think we have decided to forget about it. And that's some doing coming from Ireland. And I think that it will be a talking point but I don't think it will concern us when we play the game."

O'Neill is the first Ireland manager to lead a team into the knockout stages of a European Championships, although he did enjoy a World Cup adventure as a player with Northern Ireland back in 1982.

They defeated host nation Spain on their way to the quarter-finals and having seen off the Italians, the Republic boss is hoping for a repeat 34 years on.

He said: "When I think about it there are definite similarities. We went on a journey in 1982 that brought us up against the host nation, who we had to beat to get through to the quarter-finals, and that was an immense moment for us and one that I will never forget.

"There are similarities between that and now facing France on Sunday. It's a game that we will look forward to - we must look forward to the game, but not just look forward to it, actually believe that you can compete and win the game.

"We have to think that because the performance last night will give us an enormous boost of confidence and we need to carry that through."

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