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O'Neill - Ireland deserved a point
29 Mar 2015 23:11
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill believes his charges fully deserved their 1-1 draw against Poland in their Euro 2016 qualifying Group D encounter at the Aviva Stadium.
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After a disappointing start which saw Ireland go behind to a Slawomir Peszko goal, Shane Long salvaged a point deep into stoppage time for a result which keeps alive Ireland’s qualification hopes for France 2016.
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Ireland dominated the second half, pinning the visitors back inside their own half but it wasn’t until the 91st minute that the breakthrough finally arrived.
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"The one thing you could never say against this side - they don’t lack spirit anyway," O’Neill told RTÉ Sport. "We've kept going right to the end and it was a late goal in Georgia, late goal against Germany and another one here.
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"That’s not to say we didn’t deserve it tonight, we certainly did. The second half performance was really fantastic, we had them on the back for the whole second half and it would have been a shame if we didn't get something out of the game.
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"I thought we started probably a little tentatively. Poland didn't cause us too many problems, we've given away a really silly goal that put us on the back foot for a little while and in the second half I thought we rectified that and it was a great effort from the team."
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O’Neill pinpointed the second-half introduction of James McClean as the turning point of the game and the winger was hugely impressive after he came on, rampaging down the left wing and causing no end of problems for the Polish defence.
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"I thought the introduction of James McClean gave us that spark just at the stage of the game where perhaps we might have thought things were beyond us. Shane Long then comes on and scores the goal and I'm absolutely delighted for the team because they've shown a great spirit.
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"I think the most important thing here at home is to get Wes (Hoolahan) on the ball as much as possible. Despite our nervousness in the first half I thought he was the one to be able to do something.
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"He created a few problems for Poland and the more he was on the ball the more chances we had."
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Up next for Ireland is a must-win game against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in June and O’Neill believes that with the crowd behind them it’s a game Ireland can win.
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“We’re still in the competition, we still have to beat Scotland in June and if we show the same determination, same spirit and same ability I think then we can do them.
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"I must admit I thought the crowd was fantastic. I actually thought the atmosphere against Gibraltar was very good, I know that we got off to a good start there so we were able to keep the crowd going but tonight was special.
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"It was a brilliant effort all around by the players and the supporters and even at 1-0 down the supporters never gave up and had the game been maybe a few minutes longer we might have won it."
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