Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill pleased with Republic of Ireland as crunch clash looms

By Cian Tracey

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill declared himself satisfied after his side's 0-0 draw in yesterday's friendly with England at the Aviva Stadium.

In a match that ultimately failed to capture the imagination, with little in the way of excitement on the pitch, O'Neill said he was pleased with his players' performance ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.

He said: "In the last 15 minutes, we looked tired, but we started off brightly in the game and could have scored a couple of goals.

"The overall picture was good and from a physical viewpoint, it couldn't have been better timed.

"We asked the players to give us some problems between now and Saturday. It was the last opportunity (to impress) and it was a very good response."

O'Neill added that he was intending to bring Wes Hoolahan into the fold and was aiming to play a fluid formation with Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick in attack, rather than a straight 4-4-2.

"I was hoping to get Wes Hoolahan on the field, but we had run out of substitutes," continued O'Neill. "We had McGoldrick and Murphy, who are together at Ipswich. Mostly, McGoldrick can drop into the hole, but sometimes it works the other way at club level.

"Most teams at international level have someone who plays off the forward, so I don't think it was ever strict a 4-4-2."

O'Neill also reserved praise for Robbie Brady at left-back.

"I never see playing Brady there as a major problem. He dealt with it well defensively, and he was up against a very good player," said O'Neill.

"His strength is probably getting forward and he has a great delivery, but I was very impressed with the other aspects of his game and I think he can probably improve even more."

It was a proud day for the Republic's only debutant, Harry Arter, but he wasn't allowing himself to get caught up in the moment.

The 25-year-old was introduced as a substitute shortly after the hour mark in front of his family who had travelled from England and although he looked lively, his focus is remaining firmly on Saturday's crunch qualifier against Scotland.

"I didn't really think about it too much," he smiled afterwards.

"I just felt that I had to go into the game and try and get it out of my mind that it was my debut and try and treat it like any other game.

"I'm sure in weeks or months to come, I'll look back on it with a lot more pride but at the time, I just wanted to do well when I came on. They (family) probably savoured it more than me and probably felt more pride than I did at the time. I just tried to treat it like any other game."

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