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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 27 June, 2019
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Ireland all set for the very real prospect of penalty shootout drama tomorrow night

If no goals are scored in 120 minutes at the Aviva Stadium, the World Cup play-off will be decided by spot kicks.

Darren Randolph could be called into action in a shootout tomorrow night.
Darren Randolph could be called into action in a shootout tomorrow night.

ANOTHER RESULT LIKE the one in Copenhagen, and Ireland’s play-off with Denmark will head to extra-time tomorrow evening.

If neither side can then muster up a goal during the additional 30 minutes of football, the Boys in Green’s World Cup fate would be decided by a penalty shootout for the first time in their history.

Asked today if they have been preparing for spot-kicks, manager Martin O’Neill, sitting next to the available again David Meyler, joked:

“Yeah, and Meyler missed.

“He could still be [one of the five designated takers], because missing the penalties in practice is a totally different issue to doing it in a big game. Some of the lads were practicing, but it’s on the evening that’s most important.

“I’ve done it umpteen times before, both as a player and as a manager. Generally speaking, those lads who volunteer to take them in practice won’t take them in matches.

“Remember that great [1984 European Cup] final between Liverpool and Roma. A couple of great Brazilians, the best players in the world, downed tools and wouldn’t take them.

“At least we have people like Meyler who want to take them. I think that’s half the battle.”

Martin O'Neill and David Myler O'Neill and David Meyler at today's press conference. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With no injury worries from Saturday night, Ireland’s full squad trained in Dublin today. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot has returned to England due to a family bereavement, however, meaning Bradford City’s Colin Doyle rejoined the group.

Injured pair Seamus Coleman and Jon Walters were also present at the session and the Ireland captain, who is nearing a return from the double leg-break suffered back in April, was even spotted kicking a stray ball at one point.

After serving his one-match suspensions, Hull City midfielder Meyler is likely to return to the team — although O’Neill says he won’t necessarily reclaim the captain’s armband.

I’ve told you before, I generally bring people here because I like them,” was the Derry man’s reasoning behind his choice of player for the pre-match press conference. “And Meyler is in that category. I’ve always liked Meyler.”

He may opt to freshen up his starting line-up with the inclusion of Shane Long for Daryl Murphy, while Wes Hoolahan is a real option too — either from the start or off the bench.

“We’ll have a look to see where we are,” O’Neill said in relation to making changes. “Some of the lads completed 90 minutes and 10 of them started the game against Wales as well.

“We’ll see how they are but they are ready for the game physically and mentally. Mentally is as important as anything.”

Seamus Coleman A welcome sight: Ireland captain Seamus Coleman was present at training today, despite not being in the squad. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With a full-house behind the team, the atmosphere is likely to be up there with the biggest nights this management team have been in charge for, and O’Neill reckons they can draw on past experiences tomorrow night.

“I think the players have gained a great deal from those [previous play-offs],” he said. “The art of defending strongly when we are a goal ahead and need to hold out. Also, when we are trying to go out and get a result, we have fought back from matches in the Aviva. Two from behind in the Euros.

“I remember Jon Walters scoring a goal against Austria that put us back in the game so there is a lot of those things that you can [draw on].

“They have been terrific experiences, but eventually it’s boiling down to the one game and we have to find a way to win the match. That’s our message.”

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Ben Blake

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