The Ireland boss speaking at today's pre-match media duties. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
up for it

Defiant O'Neill reminds critics Ireland are fourth seeds, looks to past victories as inspiration for Serbia

The Ireland boss says they are still ‘in there fighting’ with three World Cup qualifiers remaining.

IRELAND WILL DRAW upon the famous win over world champions Germany and other great nights in Dublin for belief ahead of their latest test.

Having watched his side put in a dismal performance in Saturday’s 1-1 draw away to Georgia, Martin O’Neill has received significant criticism as Ireland were outclassed by their opponents in Tbilisi.

Failure to win over the weekend has allowed Serbia to open up a two-point advantage as Group D leaders, but, with just three qualifiers remaining, the Boys in Green could wrestle back top spot by claiming victory tomorrow night (7.45pm).

Although it would require vast improvements throughout the team, the current manager can look to the relatively recent past as proof that this group of players have the ability to trouble formidable nations when they are on form.

It’s less than two years since Shane Long’s winner undid the Germans at the Aviva Stadium, and they also overcame Bosnia-Herzegovina at the same venue to clinch qualification to Euro 2016.

“I think that’s exactly what we can do,” O’Neill replied, when asked whether Ireland can call upon past victories over more-than-capable opponents. “Think of the nights we’ve had here at the Aviva, splendid evenings.

“You mentioned Germany, the world champions. We beat them. The play-off game against Bosnia was fantastic. The fight-backs in some of the other matches that we’ve had and the grandstand finishes, all of those things should be uppermost in our minds.

It’s very important. We are down now to the last three games and we’re a couple of points behind Serbia. We are going out to try to win the game.”

O’Neill added: “I think at the end of it all, the players have shown, in the last couple of seasons here, a great determination in games where we have have not had as much possession as the other team but we seem to find a way to pull it around, and that will be uppermost in our thoughts tomorrow evening.”

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane with Seamus Coleman O'Neill, Seamus Coleman, Steve Guppy and Roy Keane chat in the dug-out. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

When the Boys in Green last played Serbia in Belgrade a year ago, they needed a late goal from substitute Daryl Murphy — his first at international level — to rescue a point.

But the Derry man was also keen to remind people that, after seven matches played, Ireland remain unbeaten and sit second in a group which they were drawn as the fourth strongest nation.

“We’re in a tough group and we were fourth seeds so there was Wales, Austria and Serbia in front of us,” he stated. “What we’re going to try and do is remember that it’s been difficult from the start. That’s number one.

“If we can’t win the group then we’re going to try get into the play-offs. That will mean we’ve finished in front of teams who were ranked ahead of us.

“You have ask why they’re rated in front of us in the last couple of years. Maybe their records are better, maybe their coefficients are better over a certain period of time, I don’t know. Wales’ efforts at the Euros were very commendable, in fact they were excellent.

We’re in there fighting, that’s what we’re doing. We are unbeaten in the group at this moment. It’s hard to believe, but we’re unbeaten.

“We’re going to try and do two things — win the game and if we can’t do that then we’ll try get something out of it. If we win, then we set ourselves up for a grandstand finish.”

He went later said: “We’re not the most talented outfit that has played for the Republic of Ireland. That might be going back to Jack Charlton’s time when you had players playing in the higher echelons of the big leagues.

“We have great spirit and I’m sure that will help us enormously tomorrow night.”

After tomorrow night, Ireland play bottom-placed Moldova in Dublin on 8 October before travelling to Cardiff with qualification likely to be at stake against Wales three days later.

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