Martin O’Neill determined to avoid regrets

Martin O’Neill has succinctly laid out the terms of engagement for Ireland against Austria in their World Cup qualifier next Sunday.

“In a nutshell, we want to go forward, we want to be on the front foot and we will have to take some risks in the match. I don’t want to be sitting here in a week’s time with regrets. 

"We’re at home, we’ll have the crowd. I know it’s an important game for Austria but it’s equally important for us.”

As such, the manager should have had plenty of reasons to be cheerful about yesterday’s upbeat performance against Uruguay, his team seeing off the South American opposition, and in some style.

But though the 3-1 win provided a perfect contrast to Thursday’s defeat by the same scoreline in New Jersey against Mexico, O’Neill was not inclined to make too much of the apparently striking change in fortunes over the space of a couple of days.

“In terms of experience and number of caps we had a stronger, more experienced side out there today but, as I said before, I was far from downbeat against Mexico who played very well against us.

“We had a lot of Championship players finding their feet not having played for a number of weeks. There was also a different system and that type of thing.

“But it was all preparation for the game against Austria, as this was, so if I didn’t go overboard about the Mexico defeat, I’m not going to wallow in this victory. It was nice to win, nice to win against Uruguay but everything has been about preparation, mentally and physically, for Sunday.”

One player about whom he could not hide his delight, however, was Cyrus Christie, whose positive display, crowned by a goal, suggested that there is indeed life after Seamus Coleman.

“Yeah, big shoes to fill but Cyrus has always done well for us,” said O’Neill. 

“In many aspects he may be unlucky that someone as brilliant as Seamus Coleman is in front of him. But Cyrus took himself off to America to get physically fit just after the season and before we met up in Cork. 

"That’s great credit to him and he’s desperate to do well. I thought he was excellent today and indeed I thought he was one of our better lights in the game against Mexico.”

On Jon Walters’ hit and miss day at the Aviva as frontman and skipper, the manager remarked with a smile: “Great, great goal, delighted for Jon, and then he hits the bar from — how close was he? Two yards? 

"He’s not the only one who’s missed from that distance! But it was nice for him to get some football as well. Overall, I think the result sets us up nicely: A confidence booster if nothing else.”

Although O’Neill was not able to report a completely clean bill of health after the game, there seemed to be a certain amount of confidence in the immediate aftermath that no serious damage had been done.

“Glenn (Whelan) was complaining of a sore back to begin with and at half-time it got a bit sore again so there was no point in risking that. Harry Arter wouldn’t have completed the game had Jeff (Hendrick) not been injured. 

"In general, Harry was just feeling pretty stiff, you might have seen him stretching in the last couple of minutes. His calves were causing him a little bit of concern but I think he’s going to be okay. And I was very pleased with his performance.

Meanwhile, Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez was warm in his praise of Ireland after the match. 

“Their play is very intense and, in terms of athleticism, they are very strong and very fast. Overall, they are a very strong team, very well organised and very focused — and that is always the goal in football.”



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