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I'll play my best team against Republic says O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

It may be billed as a 'training match' but Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has insisted that he will take next month's meeting with the Republic of Ireland seriously and intends to play his strongest team in Dublin.

O'Neill and his Republic counterpart Martin O'Neill are using the June 4 game at the Aviva Stadium as preparation for vital Euro 2016 qualifiers on June 13 at home to Romania and Scotland respectively.

When asked what form the 'training match' might take and if it would be a stop start affair with the managers trying different things, O'Neill said: "It's just going to be a normal game. Martin might want to play two different 11s in each half because he has a friendly with England and the Scotland game after our match, but I'll play my strongest team with a view to the Romania qualifier. It's a good game for us."

Fans and media won't be allowed to see it however. O'Neill said that decision was down to the Republic, as hosts of the fixture.

The hands across the border exercise is only taking place because Wales pulled out of a friendly with Northern Ireland in Cardiff.

O'Neill was fuming at how the Football Association of Wales handled the situation.

He said: "I was extremely annoyed. I thought it was very poor by Wales how they handled it. Not the manager Chris (Coleman), I had a good conversation with him, but the Welsh FA didn't cover themselves in any glory.

"We anticipated the game going ahead and then had a phone call out of the blue saying the game was off. It left us in a tricky position and I was straight on the phone to Martin (O'Neill).

"What I didn't want to do after our Qatar friendly on May 31 was, say, to fly the boys to Slovenia for three days. Going to Dublin to stay at Carton House for four days will be good for us in terms of preparation for Romania."

Before Michael and Martin go head-to-head in Dublin, they will manage select teams against each other tomorrow at the Brandywell in aid of the Mark Farren Treatment Fund.

The Irish League XI against a Derry City/League of Ireland XI is the latest event to raise money for former Derry City and Glenavon striker Farren, who needs specialist brain tumour treatment abroad. Ex-Derry players Paddy McCourt and James McClean are expected to play along with Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane.

"It's for a great cause. As soon as I mentioned the game to Martin he was keen to get involved," said the Northern Ireland boss.

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