Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill's interval wake-up call helped James McCarthy silence critics

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill believes that James McCarthy came of age in a Republic of Ireland jersey during Sunday's comeback against Poland following a half-time admonishment from management.

The 24-year-old, whose commitment to the international game was questioned on the eve of the match by Liam Brady, became an important player after the interval and won the free kick that eventually led to Shane Long's injury-time equaliser.

O'Neill says that the Everton star showed what he is capable of in the tense Aviva Stadium affair and wants the Glaswegian to bring that level into June's must-win meeting with Scotland.

"Sometimes you are looking for a bit more from him," said O'Neill,

"I thought he was tentative in the first half, he has given it away a few times when he should deal with the ball a wee bit better.

"I mentioned it to him at half time and I thought he came on strongly in the second half, he was strong, brushing people aside too and driving forward with the ball which he is able to do. I thought he dominated proceedings in there and kept us on the front foot."

McCarthy said afterwards that he was untroubled by criticism having become accustomed to extra scrutiny during his process that eventually led to him representing the Republic of Ireland at senior level.

"It's people from the outside, if they want to say something, they say something," he shrugged.

"It's water off a duck's back. I've had it since I've turned out for Ireland, people having gos, shouts from here and there. I've always had stick, but it doesn't bother me."

After missing November's loss to Scotland due to injury, he is conscious that he will be the centre of attention for the return match. Like his manager, he thinks that adopting the second half approach from the outset will be vital.

"The first half wasn't good enough from every single one of us, we weren't at the races" he said.

"We knew that and spoke about it at half time and fortunately we came out and did a lot better, we got in people's faces and fortunately we got the goal.

"Scotland beating us at Parkhead was disappointing and we want to put things right.

"I was frustrated to miss out. We have them in a couple of months and I'm looking forward to that. It will be a big one. It was always going to be the big one."

Belfast Telegraph