Saturday 15 December 2018

Martin O'Neill points to 'a lot of positives' despite another dreadful night for his Ireland side

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane following the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane following the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill did his best to paint a rosy picture of his side's latest limp performance after claiming he saw 'lots of positives' on his side's 1-0 home defeat against Wales.

O’Neill, whose side were thrashed 4-1 in Cardiff last month, had to endure chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” from the Welsh fans in what was a tellingly patchy crowd of 38,321 at the Aviva Stadium.

Harry Wilson's 58th minute free kick was the difference between the teams with Cyrus Christie's early chance the only clear sight at goal Ireland could engineer.

Ireland struggled to create chances once again as they slumped to a defeat that looks set to lead to relegation to the third tier of the UEFA Nations League, with a third place seeding for the Euro 2020 qualifiers now also on the horizon.

Yet despite Ireland's latest blunt display, O'Neill offered up an upbeat version of his side's efforts against a youthful Wales side.

"We robbed Wales early on and we should have scored. Cyrus has done very well for us but maybe could have taken it on another couple of yards and just side-footed it into the net," O'Neill told Sky Sports.

"We're not renowned for scoring an awful lot of goals so we need to take our chances when they come.

"I thought grandstand finish at the end for the last 20-25 minutes of the game, I thought we could get something, there was always a chance of Wales putting the game beyond us at the time but overall, I thought there were a lot of positive, a lot of positives despite the result.

"We've given away a free kick at the edge of the penalty area and Wales are dangerous.

"The goal eventually separated the teams but there was a lot of positive play from us tonight, I thought we dealt with the ball a lot better than we did the other evening and there were some really good performances."

O'Neill feels his side must develop a greater goal threat.

"The team have got great spirit, we lack a little bit of technical ability. We have spirit in abundance but spirit alone will not take you were you really want to go," he added.

"We need to eke out more chances to score goals. We need to be more creative despite the fact that we finished with three forwards on.

"Some are only coming back from injury, I thought when (Seanie) Maguire he was very mobile and that augurs well.

"We have some players to come back, serious players for us and hopefully we can go in."

When asked to respond to the fact that Ireland have won just one of their last nine internationals, he said: "We'd one defeat in the previous 11 before that

"A lot of those matches were actually friendly games where we tried a lot of players out. We didn't take an easy route we went to Turkey, we went to France who ended up winning the World Cup. Some of the matches have been difficult.

"In terms of the proper games, we got ourselves right."

O'Neill was put under a little more scrutiny in his written press conference, as he insisted he would shrug off the inevitable criticism that will now come his way by stating: "You have questioned me now for four and a half years. That wouldn't be unusual."

Wales boss Ryan Giggs had an alternative narrative to toast, as his young side turned in an impressive performance to secure a deserved victory.

"I'm so proud of the players. They dug in right to the end. It was a really brilliant second-half performance," said Giggs.

"The determination pleased me, to not give a goal away. I said on Thursday that we didn't do the basics against Spain but we did today. We were led by the captain. Ashley Williams was outstanding for 90 minutes.

"He defended, did the hard stuff which gave us the platform to go on. Harry Wilson, I fined him for the goal at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, I won't be tonight! He does it all the time in training: it's practice, practice, practice. We set out to win the group. It's a tough group and now it's in our hands."

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