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Thursday 23 November 2017

Poland test will show us where we are – O'Neill

Boss expects clash with tricky opponents to reveal how much work lies ahead for Ireland

Martin O’Neill takes notes during the Irish training session at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan ahead of tonight’s game against Poland
Martin O’Neill takes notes during the Irish training session at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan ahead of tonight’s game against Poland

MARTIN O'NEILL believes that tonight's friendly in Poland will deliver a realistic indication of the work he needs to do with the Irish squad over the next 10 months.

The Derry native enjoyed Friday night's opening win over Latvia but conceded that the opposition's lack of quality glossed over the room for improvement.

He is planning changes for the return to the scene of Ireland's Euro 2012 misery, and hopes that Poland will provide a stronger test of his team's credentials.

One enforced switch is the loss of skipper Robbie Keane, who will start on the bench as he is resting an Achilles problem that is likely to require surgery.

"We've loads of things to work on and I think this game will show that," said O'Neill. "It's not me putting a dampener on things.

"It was great to win the game on Friday but it was one match and at friendly level, it's a game we would have been expected to win. We did it in a fine manner but that's gone and now we move on to Poland – a totally different thing. Robbie (Keane) and I would totally agree on this; we have a lot of things to do.

"This will be a big test for us. Poland will have the ball – they went to Wembley a couple of weeks ago and had loads of possession of the ball away from home – so you can imagine here at home what they will do.

"They will be disappointed and probably spurred by losing (to Slovakia) the other evening. And naturally we'll make a few changes in the team. That might – and, no excuses early on here, it's nothing to do with that – that might disrupt our rhythm a little bit."

The 61-year-old indicated on Friday that he would get the outfield players who weren't involved against Latvia on to the pitch at some point, which means that defenders Stephen Kelly, Alex Pearce and Sean St Ledger are in line to feature at some stage.

Shane Long is poised to benefit from the absence of Keane, with O'Neill mulling over whether to introduce a second striker or go again with Wes Hoolahan in the hole.

He could also rotate in wide areas but says that if James McClean misses out, it won't be anything to do with his latest unfortunate bout of tweeting.

O'Neill wasn't "overly pleased" to learn that the Wigan man had used the social media network to make strong comments about the supposed political leanings of the 'Belfast Telegraph'.

"It all leads to the whole thing again about the tweeting," said O'Neill, who had problems with McClean in this department when they worked together at Sunderland.

"Sometimes I think the players don't realise, even after all this time, that this is a public media and anything they say is just picked up.

"I have reminded James. But remember, it's a fairly lengthy time since I last mentioned it to him. There has been a lot of tweeting gone under the bridge since then. If James doesn't start, it won't be anything to do with tweeting."

Daniel McDonnell

Irish Independent

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