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O’Neill Reflects On “Fantastic Memories” With Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill looked back on his playing career with Northern Ireland ahead of the clash between the two sides at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday.

Martin O’Neill played 64 times for Northern Ireland and captained the side in the 1982 World Cup.

“I had, naturally, a great time with the North, we had a very, very fine side back in 1982,” O’Neill said.

“The night in Valencia will be forever remembered. Beating the hosts [Spain] and getting to the quarter-final. So, fantastic memories and great camaraderie with the team. Some of the players I still stay in close contact with.”

O’Neill played in a Northern Ireland match against the Republic and reflected on what it was like to play in that game and how feelings have changed since then.

“We did play the Republic of Ireland back in ’79. Because it was pretty new at that time, I think that feelings were running pretty high, then. I think things have settled quite a great deal.

“It was a game that we were looking forward to, we played here in Dublin first of all and there was a massive build-up to it because it was the first time the two teams had played against each other, certainly for a long, long time.

“A lot of things have happened since then, but I think there will still be a good spirit about the game, a lot of determination with both side playing to win. I suppose I’ll have to experience it from the other side to be able to give you a full answer.

O’Neill was coy when asked if he thought James McClean’s refusal to wear a poppy could be an issue with Northern Ireland fans.

“Naturally, I hope it won’t be an issue, but I don’t know.

“James is the case in point. I don’t think that it will be an issue for the other players, considering their backgrounds, but I think I’ll have a word with James.”

The game on Thursday is a friendly, but tensions and emotions will be running high. O’Neill said that he hopes he won’t have to tell his players how to behave and that they’ll be able to keep their heads despite the occasion.

“We played Michael’s side a couple of years ago behind closed doors in the build-up to the Euros.

“That went pretty well, but it will be a totally different atmosphere. But, I think that the players will be on their best behavior”.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.