O’Neill hails battling Irish

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Martin O’Neill praised the fighting spirit of his Republic of Ireland heroes after seeing them snatch a precious Euro 2016 point in Germany.

Central defender John O’Shea struck in the fourth minute of injury time on his 100th appearance for his country to maintain Ireland’s unbeaten start in Group D, which they now lead jointly with Poland, with a 1-1 draw in Gelsenkirchen.

They had fallen behind with 19 minutes remaining when Tony Kroos broke their stubborn resistance with a long-range strike, but the world champions could not hang on to their advantage.

A delighted O’Neill said: “It was a great point for us, to come to the home of the world champions from a few months ago and get something out of the game.

“We had to withstand a bit of pressure, but we knew that would happen. Our idea was to threaten them, to use the ball better than we did in the first half.

“At half-time, I felt we were reasonably okay. They scored a goal – we should have closed it down a couple of times – and then what was the point of losing the game if you can’t kind of go for it?

“There’s always a chance. It was a fantastic effort from the team, really really fantastic. We just never gave up. We kept going. I never felt, funnily enough, that we were out of the game after we conceded the goal. That’s of great credit to the players.”

Germany, looking to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat in Poland, dominated possession throughout, but failed to work keeper David Forde often enough before the break.

However, they raised their tempo in the second half and Forde had to pull off a series of fine saves to keep them at bay until Kroos found the net off the foot of the post.

But minutes after substitute Wes Hoolahan had seen his goal-bound effort blocked by defender Erik Durm, O’Shea got ahead of Mats Hummels to turn Jeff Hendrick’s cross past keeper Manuel Neuer and stun the home crowd at the Veltins Arena.

O’Neill’s men will head for Scotland next month brimming with confidence and intent on maintaining their drive for qualification.

Asked how the group now stands, the manager said: “It’s hard to call. Third game in, it really is a fantastic effort by the team.

“People have said that Germany are missing players, but so are we. The best right-back in Britain is missing to us in Seamus Coleman. We have had our own injury blows.”

Opposite number Joachim Low cut a hugely frustrated figure to have seen his side let a seemingly decisive lead slip to surrender two points they could barely afford to drop.

He said: “It is extremely annoying for us not to have won the game. Ireland basically had one single chance and in the final second of the game, managed to equalise.

“On the other hand, if there’s anyone to blame, the blame has to be on us. Something like that shouldn’t have happened in the dying seconds of the game.

“We lost possession too easily, we misplaced passes, we passed too often back to Neuer. Despite being 1-0 up, we showed a lot of nervousness in the game, we stopped controlling the game and gave too many chances to the opponents. We let them rise again.”

Low admitted some of his players may be suffering a World Cup hangover, but promised they would return to their best.

He said: “We had hoped for more points getting out of October. You can see it in the players’ eyes, they are a little exhausted after a long season, the World Cup, then a short pre-season.

“There is a little bit missing from some of them, but next year we will be better and we will bounce back.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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