Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 February 2018

The players' view

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Robbie Keane

One of your best nights for Ireland?

It's hard to remember. Obviously because it's now, you always think that it is. For me, personally, it's obviously great. As a team, it will go down as a great team performance. Everyone helped each other and that's the sign of a good team.

After the fitness scare,

how did you feel?

My groin is hanging off now! I was knackered at the end. I got an injection before the game and in the last 10 to 15 minutes it started to wear off. It's a bit sore now -- but when you're winning, you're desperate to do it for the team.

Think you'd get 50 goals

when you started?

I think it would be very naïve for anyone to think that. You set your stall out to reach certain goals. My goal was to reach Niall Quinn's record. I reached that and then I looked to move on to another one. I'm obviously delighted that I've done that. Funny enough, Niall said that I'd get 50 goals, so it's probably down to him.

Did all the issues with no-shows in the build-up provide extra motivation?

Yeah, I think it was important for the lads who are here to show that they should be here and that they have a right to be here. The next squad, they should be in. The most important thing was we stuck together the last few weeks. The team spirit was strong.

Can Ireland win the group?

You can see that the belief is there with the performances that we've shown in the last six games or so.

Stephen Hunt

Enjoyed the battle with Goran Popov?

He was good going forward but he was pretty bo****ed going back. I was struggling a bit with an Achilles. Luckily, it went well. I knew I had a tough job. I thought Popov was suspended. He's a good player, but he didn't look like he wanted to get back tonight.

Overall qualification picture?

The group is set up well if we can beat Slovakia and then we go to Russia. Slovakia have to play Russia too. This was the make-or-break game in terms of fighting for top position.

Enjoyed post-match celebrations?

Everyone put in a shift, we were all encouraging one another. The last two weeks have probably brought us all closer together in a strange way. Never mind Scotland last week, which was nice and we enjoyed it, but this was the real deal.

On Robbie Keane's 51 goals?

He was buzzing around like a bee. He was well up for it and he had an injection too. He was hungry for the goals. I had an injection too, at half-time, in me arse, excuse the language.

Shay Given

Playing through pain barrier?

I hurt my groin in the first half, so the doctor threw an injection in at half-time to try to kill the pain. I took a painkilling tablet in the first half. I was trying everything. I just tweaked my groin a little bit.

Any chance you would have

to come off?

No chance, no, it was just a bit uncomfortable when I kicked the ball, especially off the ground. It wasn't something that was going to have me come off the pitch.

Could have been another penalty earlier when O'Shea challenged

Goran Pandev?

Probably the first one was more a penalty than the second one after not giving the first one, anything after that, he was going to give a penalty. It was probably a little bit naïve from our point of view.

Tribute to Robbie?

Phenomenal, a phenomenal record and he deserves all the headlines and all the credit because it's fantastic and I don't even think just for his goals. His leadership tonight and the way he worked throughout the game. Everyone responded and put a real shift in and that comes from the captain.

Unbeaten away under Trapattoni?

It's special. He has instilled a real belief that we can go to places like this and get results. Had we thrown it away tonight after going two goals up, we'd have been kicking ourselves. The lads deserve great credit for the way we played.

John O'Shea

What about the two penalty incidents?

Definitely the first one anyway, I think I got a bit lucky. I think he kind of evened it up with the second one. But, look, it was a clean sheet away from home, two great goals and a good solid performance.

What are the positives?

Shay and Robbie -- what more can you say about the two lads, what they've done for Ireland. They've been amazing again. Simon Cox -- a great debut. Longy come on, McGeady and Hunty on the wings, the two lads in midfield. Darren

O'Dea beside me. Kells and Killer.

Thoughts on Darren O'Dea?

Darren grew in confidence as the game went on. Pandev is a clever enough player. It was quite windy as well, so he was falling over quite easily. We expected that.

Shay Given's perseverance?

Yeah, he'd obviously hurt his groin quite early in the game. Some of the saves he pulled off were fantastic and just his sheer presence was so important.

Overall verdict?

As an away performance, you've got to put it down as 10 out of 10. We got a clean sheet and the pressure was on us from the earlier result with Russia winning.

Irish Independent

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