Sunday 18 March 2018

O'Neill hails 'character' after spirited display

Michael O'Neill. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Michael O'Neill. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell and Neil Ahern

MICHAEL O'NEILL smiles when he is asked how he will approach next week's second leg in Italy. "We're not going to go," he quips.

While naturally disappointed to have watched his side suffer a 2-0 defeat, his good spirits emanate from the terror he felt during the first 15 minutes when it looked as though a marquee occasion could develop into embarrassment.

Juventus were a goal ahead and owning the ball. O'Neill was unsure if his team could respond to that shuddering setback.

"I did fear how we'd react to that. You have to remember, our lads are young players, and against players of that calibre, they need to settle into the game to get belief," he said.

"We never got into the game long enough to get enough belief, and we could have found ourselves further behind."

The Hoops boss was therefore thrilled that his team responded to make the game competitive around the interval, before tiring and conceding another to the dominant Amauri as full-time approached.

"I'm very proud of the players," he said, "In terms of effort and commitment. I think they showed a lot of character, but there's obviously a sense of disappointment."

For Rovers striker Gary Twigg, it was a difficult evening. As the lone frontman for the majority, he was unable to find space around the area and acknowledged the prowess of the Serie A opponents.

"We tried to get in amongst them but they are quality players," he said. "We tried to get stuck in and we had a spell where we tried to nick a goal. But, on the night, it wasn't to be.

"It was a good occasion for the whole club. You have seen where the club was to where it is now and it was a magnificent occasion for the club and for the fans and everybody, including the players. It was a tough match, but we still enjoyed it."

Irish Independent

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