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'Lewandowksi has gone down rather theatrically' - O'Neill cries foul over suspensions

John O’Shea and Jon Walters will miss the first leg of Ireland’s Euro 2016 playoff.

O'Shea was sent off in stoppage time, ruling him out of the first leg of the playoff.
O'Shea was sent off in stoppage time, ruling him out of the first leg of the playoff.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Niall Kelly reports from Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw

A FRUSTRATED MARTIN O’Neill said it’s time for Uefa to rethink their disciplinary rules as Ireland face into a Euro 2016 playoff without the suspended John O’Shea and Jon Walters.

O’Shea was sent off for a second bookable offence when he brought down Polish goalscorer Robert Lewandowksi in stoppage time of the 2-1 defeat in Warsaw.

Lewandowski was involved again a few moments later in the tangle which saw Walters booked, ruling him out of the first leg of the November playoff as well.

O’Neill cried foul in Walters’ case and accused the Bayern Munich striker of playacting as Poland looked to wind down the clock.

On O’Shea’s sending off, he said: “I didn’t think (Lewandowski) was actually going anywhere at the time, and John could have maybe used his experience there in that case.

“In Jon Walters’ case, I have just seen it back and I think Lewandowski has played for the foul.

He’s not only played for the foul, he has gone down rather theatrically, as one would say.

“Jon looks as if he is trying to pull out of the way, that was my take on it, which is disappointing because we lose those players.”

Walters’ booking was his third of the campaign, earning him an automatic one-match ban and leaving his manager to bemoan the fact that suspensions carry over from the group stages to the playoffs.

“It seems crazy,” O’Neill argued. “It’s very, very difficult to go through 10 games without picking up suspensions along the way.

“It seems rather unfair then too to carry it into the play-off situation and 12 games. There’s no reason why you can’t start it again.

“Also one of the groups plays with a team less and so one of the teams has actually had eight games. It’s a wee bit unfair in that respect and I think it’s something that Uefa should really have a look at.

I think the playoff situation should be entirely different, if that’s the case. We are punished for 12 games instead of 10 and one team has only eight games to negotiate.

A 2-2 draw would have sent Ireland through at Poland’s expense but their best chance of an equaliser fell to Richard Keogh, who saw his header saved.

Although it looks increasingly unlikely that they will be seeded for the playoff, O’Neill believes they have every chance of securing qualification.

Tonight was disappointing in the result but funnily enough for all of that, Richard heads the ball into the net with six or seven minutes left in the game and we’re in France. It’s that close.

“Poland, who are a very, very fine side, went down at every opportunity, as you would expect them to, to cut the game. The game was stop-start a lot of the match and in the second half, it was very much that case, so I will draw great solace and great determination from the players and their efforts.

“I mentioned earlier about the intensity not being there – that wasn’t intentional, the players were absolutely ready for the game, but it was hard to replicate that effort only a couple of days later away from home against a very fine Polish side who may go on and do very well in France.

“But we are still there and whoever we play, we will be as ready as we possibly can be.”

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Niall Kelly

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