O’Neill bemoans international 'withdrawal symptoms'

O’Neill bemoans international 'withdrawal symptoms'

Martin O’Neill fears he may suffer withdrawal symptoms as he waits for another chance to meet up with his Republic of Ireland players.

The 61-year-old saw his side battle their way to a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Poland in Poznan to maintain a positive start to his reign, which was launched in Dublin on Friday night with a 3-0 friendly victory over Latvia.

However, O’Neill and his squad will not reconvene until March, when they entertain Serbia at the Aviva Stadium, and that is something to which the Ulsterman will have to get used.

He said: “We will get back in the early hours and we are going to a hotel, and I won’t see them for some time.

“I’ll have withdrawal symptoms – I’m not so sure it will be the same for the players.

“I might be on the phone to them, but I’m not sure they are looking forward to that.”

Ireland gave as good as they got for long periods at the INEA Stadium, but found themselves having to defend for dear life as time ran down with the Poles desperately trying to provide their own new manager, Adam Nawalka, with a first win of his fledgling reign.

O’Neill said: “We are away from home and it’s a good result for us in that sense.

“Lots of things, we can improve on and the players think that themselves. Tonight was tough going, but we saw it through.

“The pitch was very sticky. There were some divots pretty early, maybe from last night’s training.

“There weren’t many chances in the game, but we showed terrific resilience towards the end.

“I thought we started very well and got it down and played it. We lost a little bit of shape in the last 10 minutes of the first half, and the changes we made disrupted the rhythm.

“But at the end of it all, there were loads of things to take out of it. Results and performance are very, very important.

“It’s been really enjoyable for me.”

O’Neill used the depth of his squad – he made seven changes to the side which started against Latvia and then six substitutions – and that meant every fit player tasted action apart from third-choice goalkeeper Rob Elliot.

Stoke’s Marc Wilson once again demonstrated his versatility, starting the game in central defence, where he found himself in direct conflict with Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, and ending it in central midfield.

O’Neill said: “He played tonight at centre-back. He has little bit of presence about him and he can also play at left-back – I had a thought in my mind to push him over there to have a look.

“But I put him into midfield because he’s confident on the ball – maybe too confident on the ball and takes a risk or two – but he’s a very fine footballer.”

Skipper Robbie Keane, who is to consult a specialist over a long-standing Achilles injury which could require surgery on his return to Ireland, watched from the bench alongside O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane and was not even risked as a substitute.

In his absence, the manager handed the captain’s armband to Jon Walters having been impressed by his enthusiasm over the last 10 days.

It was a move which he later admitted had come as something of a surprise to the Stoke striker.

O’Neill said: “I mentioned the enthusiasm the players showed [in his pre-match press conference] and I thought he epitomised that enthusiasm.

“He might have been a bit surprised, but he was delighted.”

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