Ward sets sights on Scotland

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Stephen Ward has warned Scotland that the Republic of Ireland will not surrender their unbeaten Euro 2016 start without a fight as the pair prepare to go head to head next month.

Ward and his team-mates took their Group D tally to seven points from a possible nine with an improbable 1-1 draw with world champions Germany in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday evening to give themselves an excellent platform from which to launch a genuine bid for qualification.

Ireland will head for Glasgow on November 14 sharing first place with Poland and three points better off than both the Scots – who drew 2-2 away to the Poles – and the Germans, and they are determined to emerge with the gap over Gordon Strachan’s men intact, if not wider.

Ward said: “We are unbeaten. We go to Scotland next month, which is going to be a massive game now with their result tonight.

“I’m sure they won’t have believed that we have got a point here, so that will be a massive game. But unbeaten in three is a great start to the group.”

The Republic’s start has been eventful with Aiden McGeady’s late strike securing a 2-1 win in Georgia before a 7-0 demolition of Gibraltar in Dublin set the scene for more heroics in Germany.

Toni Kroos looked to have claimed the points for the world champions, but defender John O’Shea proved the unlikely hero with a stoppage-time equaliser which leaves Martin O’Neill’s men with a points tally Ward admits they would happily have accepted before a ball was kicked.

The 29-year-old Burnley full-back said: “Yes, of course we would. Let’s not be silly, we are coming to the world champions here. Most people outside would have expected them to win comfortably.

“But we showed that fighting spirit that we have and to get a point is great. People could say it might be a lucky one, but it’s a vital one and one that people wouldn’t have expected, so it’s a real bonus.”

Ireland had to weather something of a storm as the Germans attempted to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat in Poland at the weekend, but Ward insists they deserved the break they got at the death, their reward for a hugely committed display.

He said: “I’m hoping people don’t say we were lucky because you have to make your own luck and defend well and work hard as a team.

“Anyone would have taken that result at the start. Fordey [goalkeeper David Forde] started to make saves – and thankfully we have got him in great form when he needs to be – but there are not many chances I would look back on and say it was a clear-cut chance where they could have scored.

“There were a lot of shots from outside the box, outside the ‘D’, tight angles, but you need your bit of luck coming to these places and I thought in the second half, we deserved the point, especially the way we responded after going 1-0 down.”

O’Shea might not have been the number one candidate to snatch a point with literally seconds remaining, but his intervention could hardly have been better-timed on the night he collected his 100th Irish cap.

Ward said: “It’s obviously a fairytale. I don’t think you could have scripted that, on his 100th cap getting an equaliser so late on.

“It’s fantastic. It was a great achievement and milestone for him. He’s been a great servant and no-one deserves it better than him.

“He was happy. He’s probably one of the calmer ones. He has played in big games like this before and got results, so it was probably the rest of us who were going a bit more mad.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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