Martin O’Neill will send the Republic of Ireland out against Denmark on Monday evening hoping a little of the magic their rugby counterparts produced against the All Blacks rubs off on them.
The management team and the players watched on television from Aarhus on Sunday as Ireland laid down a marker for next year’s World Cup by beating New Zealand in Dublin.
Asked if his players could take inspiration from that achievement as they attempt to win in the Nations League for the first time at the last attempt, O’Neill said: “The rugby team are brilliant, it’s the strongest Irish side that I have ever known since I was growing up.
“No longer these days do you play international rugby and fade with 20 minutes to go, the lads are very, very strong.
“It’s a totally different sport, of course. Yesterday was fantastic, absolutely fantastic to win, to beat the All Blacks. It’s a major confidence boost for the World Cup coming up.
“But it’s not that long ago since we were playing and enjoying ourselves (at the Euro 2016 finals) in France and trying to get to the play-offs in the World Cup.”
Martin O'Neill: Since March we've played 8 games. 5 of them have been friendly matches. We'd like to do better in competitive games and tomorrow is a chance to do that. #COYBIG pic.twitter.com/5JktM4UH2w— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 18, 2018
O’Neill’s Ireland have won only once in the eight games they have played since they were trounced 5-1 by the Danes at the Aviva Stadium in a World Cup play-off 12 months ago, although the manager has defended his team.
He said: “Since the World Cup match, we have played eight games, five of them friendly matches. If we were looking at decent stats and things, we wouldn’t have chosen in recent times Turkey, Poland away, France – who went on to win the World Cup – away from home.
“We could confine ourselves to playing sides that might measure up to us, so those sort of things have never bothered me.”
Nevertheless, skipper Seamus Coleman and his team-mates want to end a difficult year on a positive note as they attempt to book themselves some more big nights to match the Ireland rugby team.
Coleman said: “Look, it’s two different sports, but last night we were massively inspired. They were wearing that green Ireland jersey and when they are wearing that, we are all together.
“But we have a job to do now. We have to put in a big performance for ourselves – but, as the manager says, we have had some big nights ourselves and we are looking forward to getting back to those big nights.”