By Liam Mackey
Martin O’Neill says he is “delighted” that Ireland will have home advantage in the second leg of their Euros play-off against Bosnia-Herzegvina next month, but stresses his team will have to perform well away from home in the first leg if they are to hope to progress to the finals in France next year.
Commenting immediately after this morning’s draw, which he attended at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, the Ireland manager – who also admitted he was pleased to avoid to avoid Ukraine – declared: “Listen, we have to go for it, really go for it.”
The first leg will be in Bosnia – most likely in Zenica, 70km north of Sarajevo - on Friday, November 13, with the return game at the Aviva Stadium on Monday 16.
Reflecting on the outcome of the draw, which pits Ireland against the highest ranked of the four opponents they could have met, O’Neill said: “Well, I suppose first things first, if you were speaking to me a fortnight ago I'd have said I was delighted to be here.
“If there is any advantage to be gained in playing at home second, that is good but the most important thing is to still be in the competition.
“There is no point in thinking that we hold an advantage in Dublin with the crowd behind us if we don’t go and perform in the first game. That would be really important.
“Bosnia by that time will probably have Edin Dzeko back from injury. They have some really decent players and I watched their recent game against Cyprus (which the Bosnians won 3-2).
“Bosnia did great to win that, got a goal in front and went behind 2-1 and came back in the game, so they have some very fine players.
“But we're delighted to be in it and, listen, we have to go for it, really go for it.”
Asked specifically if he regarded having the second leg in Dublin as an advantage, O’Neill said: “If there is anything to be happening in a 50-50 draw then we have that.
“I'm delighted, would have taken that, but we have to make sure we're still in it and have something to play for in the second game.”
O’Neill admitted that avoiding a trip to Kiev was a bonus.
“Well, if you were to ask any of the unseeded coaches I think they would have said Ukraine are still very strong, in terms of distance to travel for one thing, but also in terms of the players they have.
“I watched their match on Monday night in against a revamped Spanish side (which Spain won 1-0) and I have to say that Ukraine could have scored four themselves.”
Summing up the morning’s events, O’Neill said: “Listen, it is what it is and we're there and yeah, let's really, really go for it and be positive and first of all, do as much research and homework as we possibly can in the next couple of weeks.”
The rest of the draw sees Ukraine v Slovakia, Sweden V Denmark and Norway v Hungary.