Martin O’Neill confident Ireland are ready for Wales match

‘We kept a clean sheet for a start, so that’s something . . . a few building blocks'

After the scale of the defeat in Cardiff last month, Martin O’Neill says that his side has taken an important step forward again with this scoreless draw against Denmark. “I think they did fine,” he said after the game. “I think they are ready for Wales.”

O’Neill admitted that his players had allowed their opponents a little too much of the ball for the best part of the night but insisted that the Danes had done little enough to hurt Ireland around Darren Randolph’s area.

The Ireland manager saw positives from his own point of view, however, particularly in the closing stages when the hosts posed more of an attacking threat themselves with Cyrus Christie ultimately forcing Kasper Schmeichel into a pretty good save.

“I thought Callum [Robinson] came in and enlivened us really nicely,” he said. “He took a player on down at the touchline and got the crowd going again. I thought he did fine, really fine.”

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Before that, he observed, “I thought there were periods of possession where we looked good, where we had a feeling we could do something with it. We allowed Denmark to dominate the game but I don’t think they caused us too many problems. The early part of the second half belonged to them too but as we got into it I thought we looked more of a threat.”

In the end, though, the Derryman seemed satisfied with a scoreless draw that provides Ireland with some sort of base on which to build in their remaining couple of Nations League games and beyond. “We kept a clean sheet for a start, so that’s something . . . a few building blocks as they say.”

Things might have been more drama had Jeff Hendrick scored early on after Harry Arter had gone down injured and the Danes stopped playing. The Dubliner had been entirely unaware that his team-mate was in trouble, said O'Neill, who acknowledged that if the shot had gone in "it might have been one of those instances where we would have had to allow them to score."

The crowd left unhappy that Shane Duffy had not been given a penalty in the closing seconds when the defender went down inside the area but O'Neil admitted that he did not have the best of cases. "I've seen it back," he said, "and I think it would have been harsh. I think the defender [Henrik Dalsgaard] has come in and they've gone for it together. If it was given against me I'd have been disappointed."

Age Hareide, meanwhile, seemed happy enough with the solitary point that leaves his side top the three-team Nations League group.

“Ireland have very solid and experienced players at the back so they are very hard to break down,” he said. “It will be a tight game between Ireland and Wales too, I think but my bet is a draw, that’s what I’m hoping for anyway.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times