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'We've 11 points on the board. I would have taken that at the start of the group'

Martin O’Neill was content with a draw in Dublin last night.

Halfway through the campaign, Ireland are joint-top of the group.
Halfway through the campaign, Ireland are joint-top of the group.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill last night suggested his side didn’t do enough to earn all three points as they were held to a goalless stalemate by ten-man Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

On a night which was overshadowed by the horrific injury suffered by Seamus Coleman, the Boys in Green had to settle for a point despite pushing late on for the breakthrough which would have taken them clear of Group D.

As it was, Ireland are now level on points with Serbia at the halfway stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup with Wales a further four points behind in third.

Speaking at his post-match press conference, O’Neill admitted he would have taken the position his side finds themselves in at the start of the campaign.

“At this minute, I can’t really assess it,” he said, when asked if it was two points dropped against Chris Coleman’s side.

“It’s five games gone, we’re exactly halfway. Two games at home, three away. We’ve 11 points on the board. I would have taken that (at the start of the group).

“Serbia won tonight. Austria won – they’re not out of it. Wales didn’t gain any ground on us tonight, but we still have to go there and they are capable of winning matches. Teams will definitely take points off each other.

“We could easily have won it, but then the mistake we made when Gareth Bale came on to one, you might lose it. We pushed on, we tried. The crowd were absolutely fantastic for us tonight, really fantastic.”

Ireland fans applaud during the 5th minute in respect for the late Ryan McBride O'Neill praised the home support. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

When asked to assess Ireland’s performance, a visibly crestfallen O’Neill found it difficult to speak about the game, saying the injury to his captain put ‘everything in perspective.’

“I really can’t give you what I thought. We didn’t really play well in the first half. We surrendered possession to them,” O’Neill added.

“I thought the second half we started to improve. We were really getting into it. The crowd were fantastic. I thought it [the atmosphere] was terrific. Even when we were short ourselves. The crowd didn’t sway away from us and in the second half, gave us incredible encouragement.”

“Home matches don’t automatically mean three points, but the crowd were absolutely fantastic, particularly in the last 20-odd minutes. They roused the players. I couldn’t have asked for anymore.”

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Ryan Bailey

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