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'Hurting' players vow to make the home games count

The message was clear. "Make the home games count" was the battle-cry of the beaten Irish as they retreated from Parkhead last night.

Full-back Stephen Ward averred "It was a tough game, a real battle. People spoke during the week about it being like a derby game and it felt that way.

"You know, probably not a lot of quality in the game but real battling. Both teams gave it everything and we're really disappointed to lose it the way we have.

"We felt we were well in it and probably should have come away with a point. It was close one at the end. We defended really well for a lot of the game, both teams have.

"They've had one bit of quality that's beat us and it's really disappointing to give away a goal from a set-piece. We pride ourselves on defending them well. We probably switched off a little bit."

Ward believes that qualification could now go down to the wire.

"It's going to be really tight and we've had three tough away games now, so I think our home form's going to determine how we do. We have to look to the home games now," he said.

Hurts

"But at the minute it hurts that we didn't come here and get a result."

As for the hostile Celtic Park atmosphere, Ward said it had no influence on the Irish performance.

"People spoke a lot about that but once we cross that white line we've got to be able to do our jobs.

"We can't be too disheartened, we've played three tough away games. We were very close to taking something from here.

"Eight points from four would have been an unbelievable return. But we're right in the group - they have to come to Dublin. We've got plenty of home games left and that's the main thing to look at.

"We're still in there, but it just leaves a bitter taste that we haven't taken anything from tonight."

Fellow defender Richard Keogh echoed Ward's frustration.

"I'm disappointed because I don't think there was too much in the game" he reflected.

"It was a scrappy game, a lot of passion and we've conceded from a set-play.

"But we can bounce back from this, it's a tough group but we have four of the next five at home, which makes a big difference after playing some tough games on the road.

"It was a good atmosphere, the sort of game that you want to be playing in. It was a bit scrappy at the start, then it settled down a bit. Overall I think the draw would have been the fair result but they got the goal. . .

"They've got some great players in the team and obviously they were dangerous but I don't think there was too much between the teams and we're very disappointed to have conceded from a set play because other than that they didn't have too many chances.

"The aim will be to bounce back, it's a great group (of players), the manager is great to play for and we look forward to bouncing back.

"He's been really great, he's helped me personally as well and I think I've repaid his faith in me every time I've pulled on the green jersey. I can see why he's got the best out of players at every club he's been with.

"We knew it was going to be a passionate game. Both sides wanted to win and I think we showed that. I thought we could have done with showing a bit more quality at times but I don't think the pitch helped, I thought that it was quite poor.

"Overall I think the draw would have been the fairer result.

"It's a tough group but we're in a good position. There's still a lot to be positive about."

For Seamus Coleman, the defeat left a "horrible" feeling.

"We came here looking to win the game" said the Donegal man. "It was important not to lose as well, so it's disappointing. We'd have been happy to have come out of here with a point in the end the way the game was going.

"Unfortunately, we probably switched off a bit for the corner and they scored. It's a horrible, horrible feeling. We pushed them back a bit towards the end but, no, not good enough, and we're all disappointed.

"What was said in the dressing-room will stay there. We're a tight group.

"We knew it was going to be a tough group. We're all expecting every game to be difficult. Our aim was to win here and we failed to do that.

"We're disappointed but we can't keep our heads down for too long. You hurt bad when you lose but you have to get back on the horse. There's four of the next five games at home and we'll be aiming to do well in all of them."

Irish Independent