Wednesday 17 January 2018

Martin O'Neill defends Ireland's tactics after Danish midfielder's 'baked beans' analogy

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and David Meyler during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and David Meyler during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Miguel Delaney

Martin O’Neill believes that Ireland’s World Cup play-off second leg against Denmark in Dublin on Tuesday will be a more expansive match than the dreary 0-0 first leg, but defended his side’s approach in that game in Copenhagen, saying they have developed “the art of defending strongly”.

The Danes’ Thomas Delaney had quipped that trying to score against Ireland was like trying to open a can of beans with your bare hands and, when this was put to O’Neill, the Irish boss said they have merely found other ways to play to adapt to the lack of a prolific score.

O’Neill stressed Ireland would use the experience of previous big home wins against Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina - as well as the raucous Lansdowne Road crowd - to try and play the slightly more assertive game they need to go through.

“I think we will try to be that bit more expansive if we can and deal with the ball a wee bit better,” the Irish manager said. “We are going to try to win the game and will try to find a way to win it. These players have been able to do that in the last couple of years.

“We had the experience of the play-off a couple of years ago almost to the day. The evening in Dublin against Bosnia [a 2-0 win] was really fantastic. The crowd has been really important and they have given us phenomenal support and sometimes they have carried us through.

“I think [we draw on these games]. The players have gained a great deal from those, the art of defending strongly when we go in front and need to hold out. We have also fought back in matches when we’ve been behind. Jon Walters scored a big goal against Austria [a 1-1 home draw]. They have been terrific experiences but this boils down to one game. We have to find a way to win the match.”

When O’Neill was asked about Delaney’s comments, he defended the Irish team - and their approach.

“We have talent in our side. It would be lovely to have a prolific goalscorer that you can turn to. But if you don’t have that you have to find other ways, and that’s what we’ve had to do,” he added.

“We’ve been trying to find ways to win matches for a couple of years without possessing that goalscorer. It’s shame that, when I came in, Robbie Keane was the same age as me! But there is a terrific spirit in the came, a never-say-die spirit. We have to find that one more time

“I think the onus is always on the home team to try and break the other side down and score some goals and that will be the same for us tomorrow night. I think there might be a bit more room for both teams tomorrow night. The players will be trying to find some space, but hopefully we have learned one or two things from the other night. It is going to be tough game and everything can happen.”

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