Monday 11 December 2017

'Do not play for a draw' - O'Neill insists Ireland going for Austria win


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland's game with Austria is not a must-win encounter, but Martin O'Neill believes it would be dangerous to go into the match looking for anything less than three points.

The hosts are joint top of Group D with Serbia on 11 points heading into Sunday's encounter, four ahead of both the Austrians and Wales.

It means they would still be in control of their destiny if the result went against them with Austria under serious pressure to close the gap.

However, O'Neill is adamant that his players will not sit back and look to hit the visitors on the break, and instead wants them to adopt the positive attitude that was prevalent in the friendly with Uruguay - although he is conscious that the visitors' approach made that easier.

"We do have to look at Austria's mindset," said O'Neill yesterday, "They probably never thought they would lose three points to us in November and now suddenly they are thinking about coming and having to win the game.


"I don't want us to get into a mindset that because they have to win, that we can hit them on the break. I think we just have to dismiss that, genuinely, dismiss that.

"If we ended up losing the game, is that disastrous? It might not be disastrous, but it's not good. But you want to press home the home advantage if you can, while being mindful that these players can play a bit too.

"So a bit like the Uruguay game where we passed it around - overpassed it in certain stages - but I thought the players mixed it up a wee bit as well. That was a friendly, though, and it will be a totally different game on Sunday."

The circumstances of March's game with Wales meant that a draw ended up being a reasonable result for the home side.

O'Neill conceded this is slightly different but is very wary of reports that Austria are in turmoil with problems in goal and in defence with one option Andreas Ulmer opting to miss the match because of his wedding.

"I would take that with a pinch of salt," said O'Neill. "I've heard that (crisis talk) countless times before about teams and it's the exact opposite when you get on the field of play.

"I think considering our (depleted) side against Wales, not getting beaten in the game was fine. People are talking now about Austria losing some players. We've lost Shane Long, we've lost Seamus Coleman. Big players for us whatever you say.

"But you know what... if we take this game in isolation, we have to be on the front foot from the start and make something happen."

Jeff Hendrick was mentioned as a player who could be prominent in that mission, with O'Neill content with how the Burnley player has acquitted himself in a more advanced role.

"He can play a central role which I think he prefers and, if you've got two holding players, playing in front of them doesn't present a problem. And he can also get back to defend," said the manager.


"It's important to have a bit of strength in there, physical strength, a bit of composure if you have it and someone who can move the ball and maybe take it 10, 15, 20 yards when they have a bit of space to do so.

"If you're looking at someone like Jeff Hendrick for instance, I think Jeff can do it."

Meanwhile, Ipswich striker David McGoldrick was last night ruled out of the game with a knee problem.

McGoldrick's international career has been curtailed by setbacks and his departure leaves O'Neill with just two recognised strikers.

Before McGoldrick was ruled out, O'Neill suggested he was happy with the choice of Jon Walters and Daryl Murphy. He also has the option of using James McClean as a second striker.

Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids) and Adam Rooney (Aberdeen) were named in the original longlist but cut from the final selection.

Irish Independent

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