Thursday 22 August 2019


DION FANNING at the Aviva Stadium

Martin O'Neill insisted last night that Ireland can still qualify for the European Championships despite the draw with Scotland at the Aviva yesterday.

"It's far from over. It's not fighting talk, it's the nature of the game. We are well in the group." O'Neill said but many will feel that Ireland's chances are at an end while O'Neill and Roy Keane may not last in their positions beyond the autumn.

O'Neill felt Ireland should have won the game against Scotland, especially after a first half when Ireland were "very dominant. We didn't want half-time to come and Scotland were in disarray at the time."

Jon Walters' goal, from an offside position, gave Ireland the lead before a Shaun Maloney shot deflected off John O'Shea to give Scotland an equaliser.

"We've absolutely fallen asleep for the goal," O'Neill said before also complaining about the performance of the Italian referee. "[Steven] Naismith refereed the game along with him for most of it."

O'Neill said he felt Ireland were going to win the game at the end but by then O'Neill had taken Hoolahan off and replaced him with Robbie Keane."

"What was happening, we were getting some pressure on the ball, we might have to go a bit longer in those dying moments of the game because our team was getting tired and eventually Robbie Keane is our best goalscorer and has been for years and years."

O'Neill acknowledged that this robbed Ireland of some creativity. "If you are going to decide that the pressure you are going to exert is going to go into the penalty area then Robbie Keane might be the one to have there."

With 24 teams qualifying for next summer's tournament, Ireland would have had high expectations of making the competition, even from a tough group. Whatever expectation was there when O'Neill and Roy Keane were appointed has diminished now.

"The odds aren't stacked against us, no. We're behind Poland and Scotland. I understand that totally," O'Neill said.

"Let us see where we are at the end of the campaign," O'Neill added when he was asked to assess Ireland's season. The problem is that it seems to have ended already.

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