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Martin O’Neill concedes Ireland must use ball better after ‘really tough game’

Shamrock Rovers forward Graham Burke tries to get away from France’s €105m midfielder Paul Pogba on his Ireland debut last night. Burke became the first League of Ireland player to play for his country since Joe Gamble in 2007. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Shamrock Rovers forward Graham Burke tries to get away from France’s €105m midfielder Paul Pogba on his Ireland debut last night. Burke became the first League of Ireland player to play for his country since Joe Gamble in 2007. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill admitted Ireland must learn to use the ball better after last night's 2-0 defeat in Paris.

First-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir gave the dominant hosts a comfortable victory at the Stade de France. But O'Neill feels that the experience could benefit his players in the long run, much as they struggled to get on the ball for long periods against a superior opponent.

"I thought we were naturally second best against a world-class team," O'Neill said. "That's possibly to be expected. It was a really, really tough game for us. But I'm pleased we have taken this fixture on because if you're trying to aspire to something - the quality that the French possess - because while we are a great distance off that, the players can learn.

"We defended very strongly in the game while we conceded two bad goals. But our use of the ball can improve. Tonight was a great lesson for us in what we're trying to achieve."

O'Neill gave a debut to Blackburn defender Derrick Williams at left-full and also handed new caps to second-half subs Shaun Williams and Graham Burke, with the latter becoming the first League of Ireland player to represent his country since Joe Gamble in 2007.

The manager praised the Shamrock Rovers attacker who was deployed at left midfield.

"It was a big experience for him and Derrick Williams too and a number of the players who were playing in an Irish shirt for the first time. Graham was naturally delighted to get the call and it's great news for him and a great boost maybe for the League of Ireland."

Irish Independent

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