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Martin O'Neill warns Republic of Ireland players: We'll have to up our game


Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane

Martin O'Neill has admitted that the Republic of Ireland's performance level in yesterday's scoreless training match with Northern Ireland needs to improve for the proper tests ahead.

The neighbours played out a scoreless draw at a deserted Aviva Stadium, with the hosts finishing the game stronger after struggling for periods of the first half.

And O'Neill, who has given his players today off to recover, knows they will have to do better against England on Sunday and, more importantly, in Saturday week's Euro 2016 qualifier with Scotland.

"There's lots to improve on, things we can pick up," said O'Neill.

"We'll have a little look back at the DVD, some things that were very positive and some things we can do much, much better."

O'Neill played a completely different team in each half of the game, starting off with Keiren Westwood, Cyrus Christie, Alex Pearce, Richard Keogh, Stephen Ward, Aiden McGeady, Jeff Hendrick, Harry Arter, James McClean, David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy.

At the break, he switched to a slightly more experienced side consisting of David Forde, Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Marc Wilson, Paul McShane, David Meyler, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Robbie Brady, Stephen Quinn and Shane Long.

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Shay Given was rested while Jon Walters and Wes Hoolahan sat it out due to ongoing injury concerns.

The Republic boss said that it was beneficial to see Bournemouth's Arter in a game situation and he has strong prospects of winning a first cap in the England encounter.

Ipswich attacker McGoldrick is also in contention.

"David has not played that much. He got 20 minutes for Ipswich at the end of the season against Norwich, but he missed the last couple of months and is one that we would think about certainly," said O'Neill.

However, he has stressed that he may not engage in too much experimentation against Roy Hodgson's charges because he wants to put plans in place for the Scottish encounter.

"We want to try and develop some patterns of play at the same time," said the 63-year-old.

"The Scotland game is the be all and end all, it's everything."

He went on to offer a positive bulletin on the well-being of Walters and Hoolahan.

"They have arrived, but didn't participate," he said.

"They both feel pretty good.

"I saw Jon play in Stoke's final Premier League game, which isn't that long ago, while Wes was in the play-off final for Norwich, so they shouldn't take much to get them up to full speed."

Overall O'Neill was pleased with the exercise.

He said: "It was more than useful, it was very good, particularly for some of the players who had not played for quite some considerable time.

"Also, funnily enough, in terms of numbers we were able to change the side at half-time, a completely different side for the second half, which is really what I wanted to do.

"In terms of the opposition, they were very strong and it was great for us.

"Obviously Northern Ireland have been together for a number of days now - they had the game against Qatar - and they are looking quite strong, so for us it was excellent.

"All of those type of things were pleasing for us.

"I think the players got some benefit out of it, at least on the physical side."

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