Seamus Coleman won’t be blown off Russia course

Seamus Coleman won’t allow ominous weather bulletins, or storm clouds blowing towards Everton, distract him from his priority of World Cup qualification.

The leadership qualities of the defender so evident during the Euros have been solidified in this campaign by his appointment as captain and, this evening in the white-hot battle in Vienna, he admits the opportunity of mounting a leap towards Russia in 2018 is there for the taking.

Victory for Ireland would open up a six-point gap over Marcel Koller’s side, one of their main rivals for the one automatic qualification berth on offer, and the steady start to the campaign offers them belief of achieving the mission.

“Coming away from Austria with a draw would be a good result but we fully believe we can win and can beat teams,” said the 28-year-old last night in Vienna.

“We’ve moved on a lot since the games against Scotland in the last campaign. By then, qualifying for the Euros and playing at the tournament really brought us together.

“And when you go out on the pitch with this group of lads, it’s a privilege and you feel you’re going to be in it right until the very end.

“Even before this game, we believe we can qualify. This is a great group of lads, I always enjoy coming here and meeting up with them.

“They leave it all on the pitch and definitely a win will put us in the direction we want to be going. There’s still a lot of football to be played but we’re going into the game wanting to win and really show that we want to qualify out of this group.”

This time three years ago, Ireland were in similarly bullish form on the back of drawing in Germany, only for Scotland to turn them over at Parkhead. The pain of that defeat clearly still rankles with the right-back, as does the draw Gordon Strachan’s side pinched in Dublin eight months later, and the intention to avoid such a blow this evening is apparent.

“That defeat, in particular, was hard to take back then but we dusted ourselves down, went again and ended up qualifying from the group,” he noted.

Preventing another bad memory could well hinge on how Ireland address Austria’s stars. Coleman didn’t need prompting to roll off the two lynchpins of the home side, highlighting the fact, if it was even needed, that their influence could shape Ireland’s destiny.

He said: “Ireland have found it difficult coming to Vienna in the past and this will be another tough game against Austria. I know Marko Arnautovic well from the Premier League and they’ve got a world-class player in David Alaba.

“He made the difference in the two games we played with them in the last World Cup campaign. Those matches proved to be pivotal in the group and they show we have to focus for the full 90 minutes and not get caught with late goals.”

In unison with his manager, Coleman hadn’t checked the weather forecast, no bad thing given the grim outlook of heavy snow on the way to Vienna ahead of kick-off.

“I didn’t know about the weather but, as footballers, we have to adapt to conditions,” he responded, when told of inclement conditions looming.

“In our last away game in Serbia, there was heavy rain all day, talk of it being called off. But it wasn’t and we’ll do the same here in Austria, by adapting.”

As for his Everton teammate James McCarthy, the man from Killybegs gave the row over the player between his two managers a wide berth. Asked if he felt it was unfair for players being caught in the middle, Ireland’s skipper played a straight bat.

“I’m not interested in making headlines about that topic,” he said before pausing amid dead silence in the press conference room at the stadium.

“The only item concerning me is training this evening and preparing for Austria.”


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