Martin O’Neill keeping his feet on the ground
Germany match now comes into focus but manager satisfied with a job well done
Ireland’s manager Martin O’Neill shouts instructions to his players against Gibraltar. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Martin O’Neill was “delighted” with the 7-0 win over Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening but not best pleased with the last 20 minutes.
The homeside were seven up after 56 minutes, thanks to a Robbie Keane hat-trick, two from James McClean, one from Wes Hoolahan and an unfortunate own goal from visiting goalkeeper Jordan Perez, whose night was cut short soon afterwards to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
That his replacement Dayle Coleing wasn’t forced to pick the ball out of the net once or twice himself, however, was a minor irritation for all concerned, especially Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy, who caused nowhere near as many problems for the visiting defence as the departed Keane and Hoolahan.
“I’m obviously delighted,” admitted manager O’Neill afterwards. “Robbie got his hat-trick within 18 minutes and at that stage the game was probably more or less won. I’m disappointed in the last 20 minutes, though, because I thought we became sloppy at both ends of the pitch, we could have conceded, we had to clear one off the line, but apart from that I was very pleased.”
“There was a period just after half-time when we had a lot of momentum but maybe then the fact that we have another game on Tuesday started to play on the players’ minds a bit. Tuesday didn’t enter my head until maybe the 56th or 60 minute.”
O’Neill, according to John O’Shea, had specifically asked his side to push on in the last 20 minutes and make use of their superior fitness against part-time opposition.
“We could have done (got a few more),” said the Sunderland defender. “To be fair the keeper, the lad who came on put himself about well, but the starts we made in both halves were very pleasing. That was what we were looking for. Thankfully we got the goals.
“So, it was one of those games, it’s a strange one, the manager spoke about really pushing on for the last 20, I know the game was dead and buried, but credit to them as well they kept plugging away, they had a few chances themselves.”
Much of Ireland’s lack of creativity in the dying stages owed to the departure of Hoolahan, who made the first, with a fine pass to Aiden McGeady, assisted the second for Keane with a lovely through ball after a neat touch, and won the penalty for the third before scoring himself after the break.
“Wes did very, very well,” said O’Neill. “He had a chance in the first minute and he headed the way I used to head them, abysmally, but he produced an exquisite pass a couple of minutes later and he eventually got the goal. I thought he drifted out if it, like the a lot them, at 3-0, but he came back into it strongly in the second half.”
Germany on Tuesday now comes starkly into focus for O’Neill but this result won’t change a thing.
“We’ve not talked about it until now but it will not be a problem. As I’ve said, we’re not good enough to get carried away but we’ve won this game, scored some goals, we could have got one or two more, but I’d have taken the result.
“People will talk about the 7-0 but what I really wanted was to go there with six points and we are. The players will feel pretty good right now.”
The intention is for it not to turn into a damage limitation exercise, O’Neill feels that only invites the inevitable.
“I think if you go there and sit in for the whole night then Germany will find a way in behind you. We have some attacking options and I think it’s important that we go there and try to cause them some problems too.
As for who might line out in Gelsenkirchen, O’Neill, when asked about Shane Long’s prospects, responded: “There were three players, Stephen Quinn, Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters, who were all excellent in Georgia, but everybody’s in contention for Germany.”