Richard Barrett reporting from FAI HQ
Callum O’Dowda will miss Ireland’s clash with Wales on Tuesday, while Shane Long remains a doubt.
Speaking at FAI HQ, O’Neill confirmed that O’Dowda will not play any part in the game with Ryan Giggs’ Wales. The winger did not take part in training and O’Neill said the following:
“Callum O’Dowda is out of the game tomorrow. Precautionary more than anything else. He wasn’t feeling great at halftime. He felt unwell during the Denmark game. He can’t remember when it happened during the game. We felt the best thing to do was to take him out of it as tomorrow night is too soon.”
Shane Long, who played eighty minutes on Saturday, remains doubtful and a decision will be made on his fitness later on Monday.
“We’ll think about (whether he starts or not). He did get through a large part of the game (on Saturday), took a few knocks and bruises so we’ll see how he is later on today.”
Following Ireland’s blunt 0-0 stalemate with Denmark on Saturday, O’Neill defended his system of three centre-backs, flanked by two wing-backs.
“We’ll have a look at it and see whether we stay with the same system.
“We didn’t concede a goal so that’s a start. The players are reasonably comfortable. One player may have felt he was slightly out of position, but he enjoys playing there, Cyrus Christie.”
“The players don’t mind the system.”
O’Neill was also quick to praise Christie, who was awarded Man of the Match, despite finding himself in an unfamiliar role at the heart of the Irish midfield.
“He did very well. We missed Seamus Coleman’s brilliance, but Cyrus has played at right-back, wing-back, midfield. He showed his versatility.”
With Wales missing a number of key players, O’Neill was quick to dampen any sense of Tuesday’s game being an easier task.
“Bale is a world class player. Ramsey is a top quality player himself. I keep going back to it, we’ve got players (missing) who would be normal starters for us. We’ve had to make do for a while now.
“We’ll try to do better. (Wales) outplayed us (last time). Confidence should be high from their result against us at the start. I don’t think their confidence will be affected (by the Spain result).”
“We’ve got to be more creative if we can be. We’ve got to use the ball in the final third and be confident, more creative. International football is a step up from club football.”
Richard Keogh, who was deployed at the centre of defence on Saturday was reserved in his outlook on the Wales clash.
“Our strengths are in defending the box. On the ball, we can give it to the more creative players. We’re still learning the system but the last two performances have shown we’re moving in the right direction.
“As a professional, you don’t want to lose any game. So if you can’t win the game, don’t lose it.
“I’m more than confident in this group and that we can get a positive result.”
O’Neill will be looking for a more controlled start to the game than the one in which Ireland found themselves in the defeat to Wales.
“We conceded two early goals which didn’t help. Wales played exceptionally well. Talented players get on the ball regardless of what age they are.
“We will have to do better all around, deal with players of that calibre, to give ourselves any chance.
“The two games that we played, they were like major league games. The atmosphere was spectacular. We’re at home, try to get on the front foot, stay on the front foot. There will be moments where we have to defend. I think the players will be ready for that.”
Denmark midfielder, Thomas Delaney, branded Ireland’s style of football as ‘primitive’, something which O’Neill took exception to.
“It’s not that long ago Denmark were considered a primitive side with an exceptional player. They’re dangerous with the players they have, but it’s not that long ago they were considered primitive by a lot of teams in Europe.
“They can play primitively, hence the centre-forward who is 6 foot 7.
“Eriksen world class, Delaney top player, Sisto plays in the big league too, but they can dish it out themselves when it’s necessary. They are as physical as other teams in Europe.”
Ireland host Wales on Tuesday night, with a 19:45 K.O. at the Aviva Stadium.
The Republic of Ireland squad in full is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Colin Doyle (Hearts), Sean McDermott (Kristiansund BK)
Defenders: Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Richard Keogh (Derby County), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Kevin Long (Burnley), John Egan, Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers)
Midfielders: Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Shaun Williams (Millwall), David Meyler (Reading), Harry Arter (Cardiff City*), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City) – injured, James McClean (Stoke City)
Forwards: Shane Long (Southampton), Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Aiden O’Brien (Millwall), Scott Hogan (Aston Villa), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth)