Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill demanding focus on all matters Republic

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has urged his players to forget club problems and holiday plans and focus on one big final effort in Saturday's crunch Euro 2016 qualifier with Scotland.

O'Neill has given his squad today off to recharge the batteries following the scoreless draw with England and admitted that he allowed them to have transfer discussions if required in the build-up to that match.

Fringe players Darren Randolph and Alex Pearce have agreed transfers to West Ham and Derby respectively, while James McClean, David Forde and Paul McShane head a contingent that will be changing their employers in the coming weeks.

When they reconvene, O'Neill wants all that talk around the camp placed to the side with all eyes trained on the pivotal game in the race to make France next summer.

That sentiment extends to players who may also simply be feeling the effects of a long campaign or a hangover from relegation or other setbacks.

"It's the last game of the season before they break off and I think this week you will see amongst the players that they will be totally focused," said O'Neill.

"So it's very, very important for players to leave club problems to the side.

"Some players here have had a difficult end to the season but they can leave their trials and tribulations aside now and concentrate on this game.

"I think that's what the players are trying to do.

"Last week, one or two were still involved in club discussions and possible transfers.

"They asked me could they go and speak to certain people and I did not have a problem."

O'Neill has not banned the group from conducting negotiations before the Scottish encounter, yet he expects common sense to be applied.

"I think it's almost an unwritten rule," he said.

The Republic camp received good news the morning after the England game when John O'Shea reported that he was feeling no ill effects from a calf problem that flared up in the drab Aviva Stadium affair.

His injury cost Wes Hoolahan a chance to get on the park as McShane was sent on as a final substitute, but the Norwich City man has joined in training since and is confident of figuring against the Scots at the weekend.

O'Neill had no fears about giving the squad a 24-hour break from the camp with the players allowed to leave after training yesterday and catch up with friends and family before reporting back to base later this evening.

"I've not been one for cooping people up," the 63-year-old explained. "I treat these players in, hopefully, an adult fashion and so far - in my time here - they've responded.

"Famous last words of course," he added, with a smile.

"There'll be three in prison tomorrow."

O'Neill is keeping his own focus by refusing to allow the furore surrounding Fifa's controversial loan to distract him from his Euro 2016 mission.

With the Football Association of Ireland struggling to escape the glare of the spotlight under which it was thrust when news of a £3.7m payment from the game's governing body was confirmed last week, chief executive John Delaney was facing calls to stand before the Irish parliament and explain the situation, although the man he appointed as Giovanni Trapattoni's replacement in November 2013 was focusing solely on football.

Asked for his reaction to the latest development, O'Neill said: "Exactly the same as I had yesterday. I don't know what else has happened to it.

"That's an issue at this minute outside my jurisdiction. I genuinely don't know enough about the ins and outs of it.

"Someone asked me yesterday would I make a comment on it at some stage or another - I'm sure that possibly will be the case, but not now.

"My job here is to try to prepare these players for this match and I don't think that anything else, from my viewpoint, should be distracting from that."

Belfast Telegraph


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