Saturday 17 March 2018

'I don't know what else you're expecting': Martin O'Neill was in fighting form defending Ireland's display

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Martin O'Neill was in combative form after Ireland secured a 2-2 draw away to Serbia in their opening World Cup qualifier, rejecting criticisms of his side as he stressed how tonight's result was a 'great point'.

After taking an early lead through a deflected Jeff Hendrick shot, Ireland struggled to keep possession, which invited Serbia onto the team. The home side struck twice in the second half to go in front, before a late Daryl Murphy header rescued a draw for O'Neill's men.

Read more: Daryl Murphy breaks his international duck to rescue a precious point for Ireland in Belgrade

Speaking to Tony O'Donoghue on RTE after the match, the Ireland boss consistently pointed out how tough a task tonight's game was for his side.

"This is very, very difficult," O'Neill said,

"We are playing away from home against Serbia, these boys play in big, big leagues. Funnily enough they gave it away a few times because the conditions didn't help. Expecting us to control the game for 90 minutes away from home against Serbia, that's lunacy. We fought back magnificently after going a goal behind."

Read more: Ireland's negative mindset is damaging their ambitions: The good, the bad and the ugly of the draw in Serbia

The most interesting part of the manager's post-match comments was O'Neill's reaction to O'Donoghue calling the result a 'good point'. The Ireland boss quickly went on the offensive as he took exception to that characterisation.

"No, no, no, it is a great point," he said.

"It is a great point. It is a great point. It is early on in the competition. France is gone, that is out of the way. We went there and we beat Italy in France and we beat Germany to get to France. I don't know what else you're expecting. We have done it. Some of the younger players are coming in here and they are very fine players.

"They are going to improve, they are going to get fitter as the season goes on and that point there sets us up for next month. This group will have turns, twists, everything that you name between now and qualification time and this is strong. This is very, very difficult. I don't think you realise how difficult it is to come away from home in these conditions and score twice. We've done brilliantly."

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