O’Neill Refuses To Look Past Gibraltar

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Republic of Ireland Team

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Punch-ups, voicemails and a ‘f**king p***k’ were the talking points this week in the lead up to the Euro 2016 qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar. Thankfully, this was not a bust up in the Irish dressing room rather it was the spicy details leaked from the Republic’s assistant manager, Roy Keane’s new autobiography that has overshadowed the preparations for this game.

However, manager Martin O’Neill refuses to indulge in questions about the former Manchester United skipper’s book. He would rather talk about Saturday’s match, a match in which he hopes to win ahead of the trip to Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday where they will meet World Champions, Germany.

O’Neill is refusing to look ahead though. He is adamant that his team’s focus is purely on the minnows. He knows that with a lack of focus there could be an almighty upset. “We have to win the game, it’s really just as simple as that. We have to win the match. This is very important for us. There are three points on offer, we have to go and win the game,” stated the Derry man.

O’Neill discussed how his Polish counterparts were ‘relieved’ to get the first goal in their game against Gibraltar. It had been a shaky start but the Polish really came into their own after taking a 1-0 lead into the break, they went on to win 7-0. Commenting on that game he said, “They found it difficult. They scored a host of goals towards the end of the game but they said they’d found it difficult. And I wasn’t sure what they meant until I watched the game. And, honestly, Gibraltar did cause a problem or two.”

There will be plenty of thought in regards to who makes the starting 11 on Saturday. One of the positions that will be of interest to fans and pundits alike is at right back, after Seamus Coleman was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

20 year-old Hull City right back Brian Lenihan was drafted into the squad as his replacement. It is dizzying times for the Cork man. Only a few months ago he was playing in Turner’s Cross for Cork City now he has signed with a Premier League side and could potentially make his debut for the Republic of Ireland senior team. However, the manger may be cautious to throw the new boy into the mix even though he stated that the Hull defender doesn’t look out of place in the training sessions.

Daryl Murphy will be another player looking to state his claim for a starting place at the Aviva. The Ipswich striker has scored five goals in six games, which has helped his team move into sixth place in the Championship table. The 31 year-old hasn’t started a game for the Republic since his debut against Ecuador in 2007. Since that occasion he has only made appearances from the bench, losing out to Shane Long and Kevin Doyle in partnering the perennial Robbie Keane.

With Germany ahead of them and the desire to qualify for 2016, the Irish squad will recognise that this is an important three points on offer. A slip up on Saturday for a draw, or dare say a loss, will undoubtedly dent the confidence ahead of the clash with the World Champions on Tuesday night.

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O’Neill helps launch the 2014 SSE Airtricity League season

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2014 SSE Airtricity League LaunchThe sun beamed down on the Aviva Stadium today as the new SSE Airtricity League season was officially launched. Managers and players from the 20 league teams were in attendance and they were joined by Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, who is preparing for next week’s friendly clash with Serbia.

O’Neill praised the efforts of those involved with the league and also talked about his time playing in the Irish League. “As someone who played domestic football in Ireland, I understand the importance of the domestic game and congratulate all the managers and players here today for the tremendous work you are doing to develop Irish football,” said O’Neill.

He also discussed his attendance at league games this season. “I’m obviously going to try and take a few games in and hopefully, the managers might tell me to, over the course of the season. It will not be a PR exercise or anything like that, I would like to see some of the players come through and I think they will do,” commented O’Neill.

Eamon Naughton, Chairman of the FAI’s National League Executive Committee, talked about the excitement the league brought to its many fans around the country and hoped for an exciting season this year. Naughton said; “Last season was another exciting chapter of the league as St. Patrick’s Athletic bridged the gap of 11 years to win the Premier Division and Athlone Town ended a run of 18 seasons in the First Division by winning the title and automatic promotion to the top tier.”

Fran Gavin, Director of the SSE Airtricity League, talked of his excitement about the return of the league and seeing the players in their new gear reminded him of his days as a player. Gavin also praised FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney, on his development of the league.

The FAI and SSE Airtricty have joined forces to market the league with a new advertising game entitled “Powering Live Football.” The campaign will focus on the availability of live football in Ireland and will use the hash tag #LoveLiveFootball in it’s social media campaign.

RTÉ and Setanta Sports will continue with their live coverage of the league. RTÉ have commissioned a new show called Soccer Republic to replace the popular Monday Night Soccer that will cover the league each week throughout the season.

The prize money remains the same from last season with the league winners receiving €100,000. The winners of the First Division will receive €74,000 and the winners of the EA Sports Cup will receive €25,000.

The league kicks-off next Friday, March 7th, with a total of 330 league and play-off games to be played along with games in the FAI Ford Cup, EA Sports Cup, President’s Cup, Setanta Sports Cup, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.