Hogan defends O’Neill and says blame for defeat lies with players

Callum Robinson disappointed Ireland could not build on strong start agaimst Wales

It was striker Scott Hogan who mounted one of the most strident defences of Martin O'Neill in the mixed zone after Tuesday night's defeat with the Aston Villa star utterly dismissive of the suggestion that some might feel the Ireland manager's number was up.

“It would be stupid to suggest anything like that,” said Hogan with what appeared to be genuine surprise. “It’s the players’ fault, we’ve not won the game, it’s a simple as that.”

The 26-year-old was brought on with a quarter of an hour to play as Ireland continued to chase the game but couldn't make the impact he had hoped for. The team, he acknowledged, made too many basic errors at key moments and Wayne Hennessey scarcely had to make a save of note.

“I thought we played better when we sent it in behind, we came into the game more, we passed the ball, which we can do, but it’s mistakes,” said Hogan. “It’s about us at the end of the day, though, we are the ones who go out on the pitch, we are the ones who put the boots on and play so at the end of the day it’s up to us.

READ MORE

“It’s a game we should have won really but we lost it on a set-piece. We didn’t really create enough to score goals. We were going for a goal, just try and nick something in the box which is what I’m good at. But I didn’t have a chance . . . well, a little header which didn’t have any pace on it.

Asked about the prospects now of avoiding third place in this Nations League group and all that would go with that, Hogan insisted that the team still has to keep believing it can win in Denmark and then push on from that.

“Of course . . . until it’s impossible. Everything’s possible, isn’t it? It’s football and in football anything can happen. The lads will be training and working hard at their clubs so that when we come back, we’ll be ready to kick start again and hopefully get a few wins.

“We’ve made it hard for ourselves so we’ve got to try to dig ourselves out of it really. It’s the players’ doing, we’ve not won the game at the end of the day, so it’s up to us to change things.

Callum Robinson’s first-half performance was one of the few positives on another disappointing night but for the 23-year-old that was clearly of little consolation.

“I was gutted when their goal went in,” said Robinson. “I thought we were still well in the game. I knew we would end strongly as we did and it’s just disappointing to be then chasing the game.

“I tried to be as bright as possible,” he said of his own performance. “I tried to get on the ball in dangerous areas which was quite hard in the game. But you always feel like you’ve more to offer.”

The team will certainly feel that way after this.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times