Monday 23 September 2019

'It's night and day' - Martin O'Neill says Championship football is no preparation for Ireland


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill believes that the contrast between playing in the Championship and international football is like the difference between 'day and night'.

And the Ireland boss feels that some of his emerging squad members are struggling to cope with the step-up.

O'Neill offered the view when asked about another difficult night for Preston North End's Alan Browne in Paris on Monday.

Browne was voted player of the season by both the fans and his team-mates after starring for the Deepdale club in their promotion challenge.

But the Corkman toiled in Ireland's defeat to Turkey in March and found it tough at the Stade de France. O'Neill used the example to make a broader point about the English second tier, the level where the majority of his squad plays.


"It's a massive step-up, it's incredible," said the Derryman. "You are talking about the opposition on Monday. The French players were athletic ad lean annd brilliant on the ball and that is not the player, with respect, that young Browne is playing against every single week.

"It's nothing to do with a different role. I've seen Browne over the last two years about 20 times and I don't see his role changing. He played on Monday and it's an incredible step-up and that's what you have to try to cope with.

"And that's what these players have to try and do. They have to try and go from the football they play in the Championship - where it's very competitive and sometimes it's compelling but it's not the quality you are talking about here.

"And I think it's a great experience even if he (Browne) hasn't come off all that well at the end. But talking about the step-up, it's day and night.

"I've played international football and in my early days as a player I found it very difficult. The matches were very hard."

"It was only when I was playing European football with Nottingham Forest, and competing and winning big trophies, I found I could deal with it better. And I was 25, 26 at that time, and I don't think that's changed a bit."

O'Neill has predicted that France will reach the World Cup semi-final and that's why he wasn't too downhearted after Monday's loss. "I think if you looked at the two teams and the choice we have in terms of where the players are playing, I don't think it's a major surprise."

Meanwhile, O'Neill has welcomed speculation linking West Brom's James McClean with a move to Stoke - who have just suffered relegation to the Championship too.

New Stoke boss Gary Rowett was keen to sign the Derryman in January while at Derby and he has now been linked with another move for the 29-year-old, who has a year left on his contract.

"I think James would feel if this was a chance with a manager who liked his contributions and could give him that opportunity to play more matches, then I'm sure he's definitely in favour of that," he said. "That would give him a match sharpness that all players need."

Irish Independent

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