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O'Neill: Our younger players have come of age at this tournament

The Ireland managed also said he couldn’t be prouder of how the fans have behaved in France over the past couple of weeks.

O'Neill was complimentary of his team after the defeat.
O'Neill was complimentary of his team after the defeat.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ben Blake reports from Parc Olympique Lyonnais

ONE OF THE major positives to come out this past fortnight in France has been how the less experienced members of the Ireland squad have acquitted themselves.

Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Duffy, all 24 years old, showed that they are players capable of making the step up to international level during the four matches at Euro 2016.

As the oldest squad at the tournament and with a worrying number of players coming through at present, there is understandably a degree of concern about the future of the senior international team.

Martin O’Neill has spoke about it in the past, but he is grateful that he can rely on the trio going into September’s World Cup qualifiers.

“We put heart and soul into the game, as has become almost a pre-requisite for us, but more importantly than that we played in the tournament and some of the younger players have come of age,” said O’Neill. “It’s up to them now to take it further.”

He added: “I think the effort the team has put in in the games – we had a setback against Belgium in the second half — but overall, the players have committed themselves to the team in a major fashion.

Eventually the sides who have got the very best players playing in their team should win the games.”

With the squad due to fly home from France tomorrow afternoon, the Ireland manager also took the opportunity to thank the supporters for helping to make the tournament as success.

“Whatever the fans think about the team, the feeling among the players is very mutual,” he added. “It’s been a splendid tournament in that aspect.

“The fans have been wonderful in the four games that we have had and I believe that they give, if there’s such a thing as giving extra energy, to the players throughout the tournament.

“Obviously, I couldn’t be more proud of the fans. They have behaved themselves brilliantly too and been a credit to the country.”

Ireland go home with their heads held high and talking points from the defeat to France

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Ben Blake

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