Monday 19 March 2018

Let's extend 10-minute honeymoon – O'Neill

Martin O'Neill takes charge of Ireland for the first time on Friday night
Martin O'Neill takes charge of Ireland for the first time on Friday night
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has urged his players to approach tonight's meeting with Latvia like a competitive game and maintain the mood of positivity brought about by the appointment of the Derry native and his assistant Roy Keane.

The 61-year-old is aware that the duo are firmly in the "10-minute honeymoon period" at this juncture, but feels it can be extended if his squad carry their enthusiasm from training into the new regime's opening night.

O'Neill, who plans to rotate his squad between the Latvian game and Tuesday's friendly in Poland, wants a high tempo approach at the Aviva Stadium.

"I don't want the players to treat these like friendly games," stressed O'Neill. "I told them that last night. These are very, very important.

"I would like us to try and press reasonably high up the pitch if we can do and, hopefully, we will try to get some enjoyment out of it.

"For me, the best enjoyment is to go to win the game, but we will try to play with a bit of drive, enthusiasm, determination, all the things that I am hoping you would expect from the side."

The response to the appointment of O'Neill and Keane has resulted in a surge of ticket sales that could bring the attendance close to 40,000.

Skipper Robbie Keane, who last month gave his approval to the candidacy of O'Neill, Keane or Mick McCarthy for the top job, admitted that the outcome of the recruitment process was a pleasant surprise.

"When we were here the last time, the three names were mentioned and I didn't think we'd have two of them here to be honest with you," said the Dubliner. "Everyone is enthusiastic about this partnership and the players are too."

While the Irish camp concentrate on their own business, they'll also be hoping for good news from the World Cup play-off meeting of Greece and Romania. The only way that Ireland can be knocked out of second seeding for the Euro 2016 qualifiers is if the Romanians win both legs of that showdown. Greece have home advantage for tonight's first bout in Piraeus.

Irish Independent

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