Sport European Championships

Sunday 18 February 2018

I would happily settle for a play-off - Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill said that he would accept a third place finish because of the difficulty of Ireland's remaining fixtures
Martin O'Neill said that he would accept a third place finish because of the difficulty of Ireland's remaining fixtures
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill would happily accept a third-place finish in Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifying group because of the difficulty of their remaining fixtures with Germany and Poland.

The Derry man has admitted that he would take a play-off now, despite the fact that Ireland do have an outside chance of qualifying automatically for France next summer after the September double header went to plan.

Ireland are four clear of Scotland heading into next month and know that if Gordon Strachan's charges lose their next match, the visit of the Poles to Hampden Park, then a third-place finish is guaranteed.

But a Polish triumph would mean that O'Neill's men would have to take six points from the visit of Germany to the Aviva and the subsequent trip to Warsaw to finish in the top two.

Alternatively, a draw between Scotland and Poland would present the opportunity to overtake the Euro 2012 hosts in the Group D finale, but Ireland would be at risk of missing out on a play-off if they lost such an encounter.

O'Neill is reluctant to be too greedy considering that the Scottish slip-up in Tbilisi opened a door that appeared to be closed.

Asked directly if he would settle for third, the 63-year-old said: "If you're boiling it down to two games, home and away, particularly the games we have, I think you would nearly have to take that if that was the case," he said.

"If we go and play really strongly, which we'll have to do against Germany, then I don't know. I'm relishing that game and the players are as well. "

Meanwhile, O'Neill does not believe that Jack Grealish's representatives will be a big factor in the teenager's international dilemma.

His English counterpart Roy Hodgson said earlier this week that he would not be prepared to meet with anybody from the Stellar Group as the 19-year-old mulls over his options.

Grealish's representative David Manasseh was present when O'Neill met the player and his father Kevin, but the Irish boss believes that it will ultimately come down to the family.

"I felt at the meeting I had that it was a decision that both Jack and his father would take," says O'Neill.

O'Neill smiled when it was put to him that he was used to waiting for Grealish while Hodgson appears to be impatient. "Good point," he replied.

A decision is expected later this month.

Irish Independent

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