Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill: Republic of Ireland still have plenty of work to do to reach the Euro Finals, warns

By Damian Spellman

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill played down the importance of his side's away goal - scored by Robbie Brady - after the 1-1 draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina in Zenica in the first leg of the Euro 2016 play-off.

The result means even a 0-0 draw in the return leg at the Aviva Stadium on Monday night would be good enough to see the Republic join Northern Ireland, England and Wales at next summer's finals in France.

"We got an away goal which helps but that can be wiped out in a minute," said O'Neill.

"It was a tough game for us but we fought very hard. We have everything to play for.

"I don't think the advantage is with us. Bosnia are capable of scoring a goal," said the Derryman. "We will have to play very strongly again but we have given ourselves a chance."

Like everyone else, O'Neill was worried that the game might be called off because of the thick blanket of fog which enveloped the stadium after half-time.

"I was concerned when the fog came down. What I didn't know until afterwards was that if the game had been called off we would only have come back for the rest of the game.

"The rule before was that you come back for all of it.

"Since we had played the first half and the game was goalless it wouldn't have been too bad.

"The fog didn't get worse and the referee saw fit to start the second half and saw fit to keep the game going.

"I'm delighted the fog didn't prevent the game from being finished. We could all gripe about one or two decisions but I thought referee was outstanding and I haven't said that for a long time."

O'Neill said he saw very little of Brady's goal.

"It was a very foggy goal," he said smiling.

"Haven't seen it back since but I think he did very well to get back into position although he's being modest about it.

"It was a great boost for us and keeps us alive and going."

O'Neill had a positive bulletin about his missing players.

"I'm hoping that John O'Shea is still doing well. We will see. He will join up with us tomorrow. Jon Walters is coming in and I hope nothing happens. He can play in terms of fitness.

"Shane Long hasn't ruled himself out. He has no football which is very, very important but it's great to know he doesn't want to rule himself out."

It could have been even better for O'Neill's men as they took an 82nd-minute lead through Brady only for Edin Dzeko to level three minutes later.

Defender Ciaran Clark said: "As a team it was a good performance. This game is done now and we have to concentrate and get ready for the game on Monday night now. That's half-time effectively.

"We are confident we can get a result. It's going to be a tough game for both teams for sure, we have got the away goal, but we've got to go out there as if it is 0-0 and we've got to go again and concentrate on Monday night."

Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic admitted he could not see beyond the halfway line due to the fog.

Clark added: "The fog did get worse in the second half, but it is the same for both teams and both teams had to deal with it."

Chelsea keeper Begovic conceded his side had a tough night.

"It was a difficult night, Ireland are a tough team to break down, they are organised and we couldn't quite get the ball down and play it the way we wanted to so it was difficult," he said.

"Both teams made it difficult for each other. Obviously we need to score, but there is still 90 minutes to play and we fancy ourselves against anyone."

Belfast Telegraph