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O'Neill lauds Arter and McClean after Ireland end 53-year winless run against Austria

The Ireland manager was understandably in good spirits after a “brilliant” night in Vienna.

O'Neill high-fives Keane at the final whistle.
O'Neill high-fives Keane at the final whistle.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AFTER WATCHING HIS team end a winless run stretching back to 1963 tonight, Martin O’Neill was most satisfied with the character his Ireland team showed in the second half of their 1-0 victory over Austria.

The home side had the better chances before the break, but James McClean’s 48th-minute goal proved the winner as the Boys in Green brought their points tally to ten after four matches, which leaves them out in front in Group D.

“Naturally, I’m delighted with the win,” O’Neill said tonight. “It was a tough evening, we had to withstand a lot of early pressure from Austria but we started to come into the game just before half-time.

“Jon Walters had the chance, but that didn’t deflate us. If nothing else, it gave us a spirit and in the second half, I thought we were very strong So in terms of the achievement, I couldn’t be more pleased with the team.

“We have shown great strength of character throughout the last couple of years and I thought it was epitomised tonight.”

The Ireland boss had to deal with several missing players for the trip but those who came in excelled and he will be proud of how they stepped up to the plate.

“A number of players there tonight, you could hardly differentiate in terms of their performance,” he added. “It was really brilliant — the second half, McClean’s goal, a great move and then we were really strong defensively so I am very pleased.”

This latest result gives their chances of qualifying for World Cup in two years’ time a major boost, but O’Neill pointed out that there is a lot of football still to be played as we haven’t even reached the halfway point of the campaign.

It puts some extra points on the board, but it’s a long way away,” he added. “But overall tonight, yes, I’m delighted.”

Harry Arter earned his first competitive cap this evening and peformed admirably in the centre of the park alongside David Meyler, who came on early for the injured Glenn Whelan.

And the appearance finally puts an end to those daft rumours about him switching allegiance to England.

“Well that was the great news tonight,” said O’Neill, when asked about the Bournemouth midfielder. “He is now our player. So that big story that developed and took flight a few weeks ago, thankfully we have put that to bed.

“I felt Harry came into the game. I thought it was a tough start for him, as it was for all of us. But he came into the game in the second half. I thought he did very well, and he can only improve.”

Seamus Colman celebrate with James McClean Ireland captain Seamus Coleman and goalscorer James McClean after the win, with Martin O'Neill and David McGoldrick alongside them. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Match-winner McClean, who had been been a major doubt up until the past couple of days due to torn muscle in his back, grabbed the headlines with a second half winner and he earned praise from his fellow Derryman.

“McClean was brilliant tonight,” said O’Neill. “It was a great goal. If the game had been on Tuesday, he couldn’t have played and I think that speaks volumes for him.

The medical staff got him back on the field as well, so I am delighted for everyone concerned.

“But McClean has got a great attitude and at the ripe old age of 28, I think he is even improving, which is great news.

“But he has been splendid for a long time now.”

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McClean strike sends Ireland top of the group after first-ever win in Vienna

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Ben Blake

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