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This Ireland team has grown since our last visit to Vienna - Coleman

The current group of players have progressed since that disappointing defeat to Austria in 2013, according to their captain.

Coleman with Marko Arnautovic and Julian Baumgartlinger three years ago.
Coleman with Marko Arnautovic and Julian Baumgartlinger three years ago.
Image: Mike Egerton

Ben Blake reports from the Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna

SEAMUS COLEMAN’S MOST recent memories of a visit to Vienna aren’t the kind he enjoys going back over.

The Killybegs defender was one of three players in the current squad to start against Austria for Giovanni Trapattoni’s final game as Ireland manager on 10 September 2013.

Scoreless up until the 84th minute, Christian Fuch’s cross was poorly dealt with by the Irish defence and David Alaba had time to take a touch and find the back of the net — ensuring the Boys in Green would not be spending the summer in Brazil at the World Cup finals.

Three years on, the Everton star is now skipper of the national side and will lead the troops out at the Ernst-Happel Stadium tomorrow evening (5pm kick off Irish time).

The disappointment of that result, and the 2-2 draw at the Aviva Stadium in the same campaign, still hurts but the 28-year-old believes the team are in a better place under Martin O’Neill.

“In that World Cup qualifying campaign, the Austria games were pivotal really,” Coleman said this evening. “We conceded late goals in the games and it was tough to take at the time.

“But I think we’ve moved on a lot since then and qualifying for the Euros in the summer has really brought this group together.

“Coming away from here with a point wouldn’t be a bad result but with the lads we’ve got we truly believe that we can beat teams.

When you go out on the pitch with the lads it’s a privilege and you know you’re going to be in it until the very end.”

There was some good news on the injury front as O’Neill expects winger James McClean to be fit enough to play after training yesterday and during tonight’s session at the ground.

“James is improving greatly, thankfully,” the Ireland boss said of his fellow Derryman. “He was in great discomfort at the weekend and came to us on Monday.

“He wasn’t great, but a lot of good work by everyone, including James himself, has him pretty good and he trained yesterday.

“He didn’t do a great deal but he trained. I expect him to do something tonight. If that was the case he would declare himself fit.

“James is one of those, if he is feeling bad he would definitely be feeling bad. But he is recovering and that’s good.”

The Austrians come into the game with one point from their last two qualifiers but there is no doubting they are a competent team who are capable of causing Ireland problems.

“I think they are a very good side,” added O’Neill. “They’ve come home from the Euros very disappointed because they would have expected to have done better than that.

“That said, they drew with the team that actually won the competition, Portugal, so I think they are looking to make amends.

“They started off brilliantly. That win in Georgia will prove to be a very big win indeed. And I don’t think anyone was surprised with the draw with Wales, as they are riding high. Losing in Serbia would not be the end of the world either.

“So I think that Austria will be one of the sides who are there or thereabouts at the end, regardless of tomorrow night.”

Republic of Ireland Training Session - FAI National Training Centre O'Neill alongside Coleman today. Source: Niall Carson

This meeting with Austria brings Ireland’s fixtures for 2016 to a close and they don’t play again until Wales visit Dublin in March.

O’Neill has continuously insisted he never sends teams out to draw matches, but admitted that a point from the outing would leave them in decent shape with massive home games against the Welsh, Austria and Serbia next year.

“Remaining unbeaten over the Christmas period and going into March naturally gives you a boost,” O’Neill went on.

“There is no question about that and any point away from home in international or club football is still considered, even by the very best sides, to be a good result so it will be difficult.

But regardless of tomorrow night, our destiny is in 2017.

“By then, we will have played three games away from home and one at home, and we will level that up some time in June.

“This is still a very important game, don’t get me wrong. Our attitude is to go out and play on the front foot and be positive and go for it, which we tried to do in Serbia and we came away with the draw.

“We tried to do it against Georgia, where Seamus’ great goal got us a hard-earned victory, and against Moldova. After conceding a poor goal before half time, we fought back in the second half so we have got plenty of spirit about the team.”

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Ben Blake

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