Martin O’Neill praises response of players to Wales defeat after draw with Poland
Manager says the substitutions unsettled a side that was coping well with Poland rally
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill: “We could and possibly should have won the game. Poland are a very decent team but we tried to play every bit as a well as them and I thought we succeeded.” Photograph: Inpho
If the mood amongst the more critical fans had been lost on Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill before this game then he got a hint of it afterwards from a Polish journalist who had spoken to a few around Wroclaw the town and had been startled to hear they thought Ireland might be beaten 6-0 here.
O’Neill seemed so startled that he had to make an extended effort to make sure he understood what was being said to him but he took some pleasure from simply pointing out when it was clear he did that “they were wrong”.
The manager admitted that the importance of a result secured here was heightened somewhat by the defeat in Cardiff and suggested that the confidence his players will take into the game from the game into the Nations League games next month might make all the difference. However, he claimed they were unlucky too not to have actually won.
“We played exceptionally well; we could and possibly should have won the game. Poland are a very decent team but we tried to play every bit as a well as them and I thought we succeeded; we certainly defended very well.
“We got the three at the back into the game quite well,” he said. “We survived the chance they had when Enda (Stevens) slipped and they had a free header but overall we did quite well and I thought Callum O’Dowda did really well.”
He wasn’t the only one to catch the manager’s eye with Aiden O’Brien contributing much more than just the got he got to mark his international debut and Shaun Williams looking far more comfortable on the ball in midfield than might be expected given his own limited experience of the game at this level.
“I thought Aiden was absolutely terrific for a debut,” said O’Neill. “He played exceptionally well. You know what you are going to get in get in terms of effort; I’ve seen enough of him playing for Millwall. You know he will give you absolutely everything.
“He hadn’t even played centre forward for quite some time, he tends to play on the left but he tried to hold it up then push into the area and he did exceptionally well for the goal. Shaun is nice footballer, he wants to get it down and play it and that was certainly helpful.
For his own part, O’Neill stopped short of saying this was a result he really needed but he made no bones of the fact that he was happy to have it. “You are judged on performances and results in this job, particularly results and we were well beaten in Cardiff even though we had some injuries to contend with. But I thought the players responded magnificently tonight. And I thought we could have win.”
In the end, he said, the substitutions had unsettled a side that was coping well with Poland’s efforts to come back from the goal.
“We had a disruption. When we scored our goal we had two substitutions, ready, I wanted to get (Matt) Doherty into the proceedings, but I think the subs made towards the end disrupted the flow. It would have been nice to have seen it through.”
The locals were less happy and Jerzy Brzeczek, who found himself having to defend his side’s performance, complimented the way the Irish side had denied his players the opportunity to get in behind them but he acknowledged that his own side’s lack of drive or creativity had been an issue early on.
“I think we used the ball quite well,” he said “and the game could have turned out quite differently. In the second half we produced a couple of moves that could have ended with goals but in the first half we lacked a player who could speed up the game or someone who could open our opponents up the way (Mateusz) Klich did after coming on. There wasn’t the space we had had against Italy but our best players from that game did not play here so I am happy overall.”