Monday 20 November 2017

Princes of Wales: McClean sweeps battling Ireland into World Cup play-offs

O'Neill hails players' courage as victory in Cardiff keeps Russia dream alive

James McClean, second from right, celebrates with his Ireland team-mates after scoring the only goal of last night’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff. Photo: STEPHEN MCCARTHY/SPORTSFILE
James McClean, second from right, celebrates with his Ireland team-mates after scoring the only goal of last night’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff. Photo: STEPHEN MCCARTHY/SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill says Ireland's courage will make them an opponent to fear in the World Cup play-offs after James McClean's goal secured a famous win in Cardiff.

Ireland knocked Wales out of the competition to secure second spot in Group D behind Serbia after holding firm under pressure in a tense 90 minutes. They must now wait to find out who they will play in next month's two-legged decider that will determine if they make Russia.

Ireland will be unseeded and their possible opponents are Italy, Croatia, Denmark and either Switzerland or Portugal - those sides meet in Lisbon tonight where a win for the hosts would put them into the finals and condemn the Swiss to a knockout affair.

The play-off draw takes place next Tuesday in Switzerland with the first leg taking place between November 9-11 and the second down for November 12-14.

O'Neill admitted that Ireland will face a tough task no matter who they draw and name-checked Italy and Portugal.

But he said that his side have showed they have attributes which make them an unattractive option.

Martin O'Neill celebrates his side's victory
Martin O'Neill celebrates his side's victory
James McClean, second from right, celebrates with his Ireland team-mates after scoring the only goal of last night’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff. Photo: STEPHEN MCCARTHY/SPORTSFILE
Ciaran Clark appeals for a penalty following a clash between James Chester and Shane Duffy. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jeff Hendrick shows his strength up against Ben Woodburn. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland supporters celebrate at the end of the game. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
James McClean shoots to score his Ireland's winning goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Joe Allen finds himself as the meat in the sandwich between David Meyler and James McClean in the incident which saw the Welshman substituted. Photo: STEPHEN McCARTHY/SPORTSFILE
Captain David Meyler celebrates by kissing the Ireland badge following their victory in Wales. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I don't think everybody would want to play us," said the Derryman. "Do I fear teams in it? Absolutely. Every one of them. I've always feared teams, that's the way to be. Then we go out and beat them!

"I've never doubted the character of the players - that's instilled in them. We've had great courage.

"Sometimes we can do better with the ball but trying to qualify for the World Cup is a monumental task. You have different conditions, different matches where you're trying to get a result or two somewhere along the way.

"I knew we'd fight back," continued O'Neill when asked about the mood after taking one point from six in the September double-header with Georgia and Serbia. "We may lack a few things but courage is not one of them."

David Meyler will be banned for the first leg after picking up a yellow card last night, while O'Neill was cool on the possibility of injured stars Seamus Coleman and Jon Walters making a shock comeback. They are not due to recover in time.

Irish Independent

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