Republic of Ireland international striker Jon Walters paid tribute to departing manager Martin O’Neill.

O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane stepped down after a five-year spell in charge of the national team, following a major slump in results and performances over the course of the last year.

While Walters admitted that Ireland had endured a ‘difficult year’, he pointed to the number of new players blooded throughout 2018.

O’Neill handed eight Irish players their first cap this year, including 18-year-old Southampton striker Michael Obafemi who made his international debut against Denmark on Monday.

Posting on Twitter, Walter said: "I didn’t expect Martin to leave as manager. Although we’ve had a very difficult year in terms of results, I’ll balance that with the amount of players that have just started their international career.

"I would've been very confident in qualifying under Martin and still am with the group of players we have.

"On a personal note I have the upmost respect for Martin as he is and always has been fantastic for me."

James McClean echoed his team-mate's sentiments and had a sarcastic swipe at some of O’Neill’s detractors.

"Gutted to see the gaffer gone," McClean wrote on instagram.

"Qualifying for euros beating Germany, last 16 at the Euros, beating Italy, within one game of qualifying for world cup being 4th seeds... aye bad record. Thanks for everything gaffer."

Meanwhile Chris Sutton, who played under O'Neill at Celtic for five years, came to the defence of his former manager and questioned whether or not he was a fall guy for the lack of quality in the Ireland squad.

"Sad to see Martin O Neill and Roy Keane leave Ireland, the truth is they had very little to work with," he wrote on Twitter.

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