Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Neill makes no excuses after playing for penalties

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THERE were no excuses from Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O'Neill as he slumped down in his chair in the press conference room deep in the Aviva Stadium.

On an afternoon where his team failed to score in either 120 minutes of football or the penalty shoot-out that followed, it really couldn't have been any other way.

His team had failed in their mission to become the seventh Hoops side to win the double but, with the league trophy already in the cabinet and a degree of financial stability in Tallaght, the Northern Irishman stressed there was plenty to look forward to in 2011. Although the tear-stained faces of Hoops players leaving the field was evidence that -- for a few days at least -- the gloss will have been taken off the achievements of this year.

That will change in time, but O'Neill admitted that goalkeeper Alan Mannus, who had experienced highs and lows with Linfield, spoke in the dressing-room afterwards and accentuated the positives.

"We have to use it as motivation," he stressed. "There's a lot of young players in that dressing-room and hopefully they'll have many more opportunities. Sligo had the heartbreak of last year, losing the game in Tallaght and we have that this year so maybe next year it will be our turn."

The 41-year-old had some big decisions to make on the afternoon. He left Aidan Price on the bench, feeling that Pat Flynn was better suited to coping with Sligo's lone frontman Eoin Doyle.

Substitute Dessie Baker was then withdrawn after Stephen Bradley's dismissal, a slightly unfortunate way for his career to end, but O'Neill said the only other option was to withdraw Gary Twigg.

Considering they were a man down with nine minutes of extra-time remaining, he acknowledged the priority was simply ensuring the game reached a shootout.

"Penalties was an attractive option at that point in time," he said. "But I suppose it doesn't seem that way now.

"You've got to commend the goalkeeper who has saved all their penalties; we'd asked the players beforehand to make sure they got all their penalties on target and they did.

"Sligo played very well, and the game swung to and fro. Both teams had chances and it was a good cup final. I felt we had good periods in the game but we have to accept that there had to be a loser."

Irish Independent

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