Tuesday 21 January 2020

Martin O'Neill responds as Austrian journalists question Roy Keane's 'war' comments

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

MARTIN O'NEILL can see where Roy Keane is coming from when he says that tomorrow's World Cup showdown with Austria will be a war.

The Ireland assistant boss used stirring language on Friday, running through the playbook of pre-match rallying cries.

A question on a visit to the camp from injured captain Seamus Coleman sent Keane down that road. "People have done a lot more for their country than break their legs," he said, "People have died for their country. All we're asking is that they put their bodies on the line to try and win a game. We're going to war with them. Let's see what happens."

Those comments were noted by visiting Austrian journalists who today asked O'Neill if a 'war' was on the agenda.

"Did he say that?" said O'Neill with a grin, before turning to Ireland attacker Jon Walters who knows Keane well from a tempestuous spell together at Ipswich. "I don't think Jon and I would be surprised by that. I don't think anybody would be.

"Roy went to war every single time he played for about 14 years and I think what he means is you have to have a really strong mentality and be ready to battle through the game because qualification matches are exactly that - tough games to play. It's really hard work. We have to be ready for that hard work from the start."

O'Neill also echoed Keane's sentiments on the reported problems in the Austria camp with the fact that Marcel Koller is missing a number of important players, most notably starting attackers Marko Arnautovic and Marc Janko, leading to fears that Ireland will underestimate the back-up.

"Some Austrian players are missing, but we've got some exceptional players missing ourselves. Seamus Coleman is one of the best full backs in European football. Shane Long is obviously missing," said the Irish boss.

Austria have the manpower to overcome their problems. We have to try and take the game to Austria and really be positive right from the start. They have the capability to cause us all sorts of problems and I think we have to be on the front foot if we can but also aware of their dangerous players.

"I don't think we have the ability to carry players in the team. We have to be really at it all the time, that's one of our strengths I think. We can't afford to drop off."

After a lively training session on Friday, Ireland's squad had a shorter gathering at Abbotstown on Saturday with management focused on ensuring that the players peak for the 5.0 kick-off. As usual, O'Neill will leave it late to confirm his final selection.

"We didn't do a great deal," he said,  "Just a few boxes and a little bit of shooting, I think that was as precautionary as it could be. I should have a fair idea (of my team) by now. I've had some big calls to make in a lot of positions during my time here, positional changes and tactical things too. I don't think it will be great deal more difficult tomorrow.

"I want the lads to be as mentally tuned in as they can be as well as physically right too. The preparation has gone well. I couldn't have asked for more."

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