Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland: Warren Feeney expecting more than an idle kick-about

warren feeney

Warren Feeney has described Northern Ireland's last match with the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium as a "horrible experience".

Ahead of today's 'training match' between the sides in Dublin, the Linfield manager reflected on Northern Ireland's 5-0 hammering by the Republic four years ago in the ill-fated Carling Nations Cup tournament.

Nigel Worthington was in charge of Northern Ireland then and due to withdrawals and the unavailability of some big names, he was forced into selecting several youngsters and Irish League players.

One of the few big hitters that turned up was Feeney, but he could do little as Giovanni Trapattoni's side, who weren't at full strength themselves, won with ease, helped by a dubious red card for Northern Ireland youngster Adam Thompson.

Robbie Keane netted twice while Stephen Ward and Simon Cox also scored, adding to a Craig Cathcart own goal, as the home side ran riot.

Feeney, as passionate about Northern Ireland as they come, was fuming with the result.

"It was tough. The whole tournament was tough actually," recalled the Blues boss.

"I remember we had a chance to go ahead but didn't take it and they seemed to score every chance they had. It was an awful game to be involved in.

"There may have been no points at stake for a World Cup or European Championship but even so, to lose 5-0 to your derby rivals was hard to take. For me it was a horrible experience."

Fast forward to the present day and Northern Ireland's training match with the Republic behind closed doors at the Aviva.

While respective managers Michael O'Neill and Martin O'Neill have become good friends, Feeney believes there won't be much love lost on the pitch.

"It may be being billed as a training game but I am certain there will still be a competitive edge," said Feeney, who won 46 caps.

"It is the Republic v Northern Ireland after all. I am sure everyone will be very professional about it.

"It is also a chance for players to impress the respective managers. There are big games coming up for both countries.

"Northern Ireland obviously play at home to Romania next Saturday night and if players do well against the Republic, Michael may decide to throw them in for the Euro qualifier with the Romanians, so there is going to be plenty of incentive in the Aviva Stadium.

"The game is being played for a reason. It's not just been arranged to have a kick-about and if Northern Ireland were to put in a good performance it would be a mental boost before the Romania match.

"I think it is a good match for Michael to have in the run up to the Romania game because it will be competitive and with it being behind closed doors, there will be less pressure."

Sunderland keeper Costel Pantilimon has been ruled out of Romania's Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland with a knee injury.

Pantilimon suffered a knee injury in Sunderland's goalless draw at Arsenal, which ruled him out of the final game of the season at Chelsea.

And, while the former Manchester City goalkeeper reported for international duty in Bucharest this week, he will not be considered for the game at Windsor Park on June 13.

"I'm so sorry that I could not help Romania in Belfast," said Pantilimon.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph