Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill: We've given everyone a big lift

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill hopes that qualification for next summer's European Championships has lifted the mood of the nation after the rugby side's failure to make progress in the World Cup.

The Republic of Ireland boss has admitted that the footballers sensed the need to deliver after Joe Schmidt's side failed to live up to expectations, and thinks their win over Bosnia on Monday might lead to a happier Christmas for the sporting public.

"I know these sporting events can sometimes get a bit overplayed," said O'Neill.

"With the disappointment of the rugby side, where there was a great opportunity - I'm not saying to win the tournament against New Zealand as that was always going to be difficult, but perhaps the semi-final - it felt like taking the baton on.

"And, if we hadn't made it, it might have been a lot of drudgery around Christmas time. I'm really, really delighted for the crowd who will come to France."

The Republic boss used a radio appearance to again stress the importance of assistant Roy Keane to the mission and added that his number two should be remembered as a world-class player - his old Manchester United boss recently said that Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs were his only former players in that bracket.

"Roy has been influential, he's an iconic figure and he's been a world-class footballer regardless of what Sir Alex Ferguson says," he joked. "He was a world-class player because he influenced that great Manchester United side like you wouldn't believe.

"He was the driving force of the team and when you are winning leagues and big cups and you have a driving force like that, I'm sorry but you can be classed as nothing else but world-class."

O'Neill added that his 'shy' sidekick was reluctant to join post-match celebrations on the pitch.

He added: "I said, 'Remember I am the older one and you'll have to do what I tell you'. I felt he should take the credit he deserves."

O'Neill added: "When I took over, it was supposedly the dawn of a new era.

"People were making vast judgements on friendly matches. For us to go and play proper friendly matches last summer ahead of teams that were playing in the World Cup, like Italy and Costa Rica and Portugal, it was important.

"I had midfield players at full back and, eventually, it stands you in good stead."

Belfast Telegraph