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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 17 April 2021

'I couldn’t begin to describe how it has been for me. I’m loving every minute'

‘I’ve only changed little things, the handshake in the morning has been replaced by a group hug,’ IWNT caretaker boss, Tom O’Connor joked.

Irish women's caretaker manager, Tom O'Connor.
Irish women's caretaker manager, Tom O'Connor.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

HE HAS INTERVIEWED for the job on a full-time but caretaker manager Tom O’Connor isn’t viewing tomorrow night’s Euro 2021 qualifier with Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium [KO 7.30pm, live RTÉ Two] as a personal audition for the role. 

“No. I don’t”, O’Connor said at today’s pre-match press conference. “When I was told I’d be taking over the team I’ve been myself, acting in the same vein, the same Tommo, going around the camp.” 

O’Connor says he is “waiting on the results” of the interview, but has thus far enjoyed his stint as caretaker. 

“On a personal note, I couldn’t begin to describe how it has been for me”, said O’Connor. 

“I’m loving every minute. The decision will be made by my employers, and whatever happens I’ll be on board in some shape or form, please God.” 

O’Connor served as assistant to the former manager Colin Bell, who surprisingly left the job earlier this summer to take a role as assistant manager at the Huddersfield men’s team. Since taking it, manager Jan Siewert has been dismissed and although his departure hasn’t been publicly announced by the club, Bell hasn’t been on the touchline at Huddersfield games since. 

Captain Katie McCabe said the exit of Bell was “gutting”, but O’Connor has been eager to maintain continuity since. 

“He’s an excellent coach with an excellent demeanour with everybody around the place”, said O’Connor about the departed Bell. “But football is football and these things happen. So it’s been a case of picking up where he left off and carrying on.

“We didn’t change much going to the USA, we kept everything as it were.

“I’ve only changed little things: the handshake in the morning has been replaced by a group hug now.” 

O’Connor was in charge for last month’s friendly with world champions USA at the Rose Bowl, which ended in a 3-0 defeat. All of the goals were conceded in the first-half, and O’Connor is taking heart from his side’s second-half performance. 

That confidence was manifest as a level of bullishness ahead of tomorrow’s game, with O’Connor saying he would “take Germany next week” if Ireland replicate the latter half of that performance against the world champions. 

Germany are the group’s top seeds and reached the quarter-finals of this year’s World Cup, although Ireland are refusing to settle for second place. 

“We want first place”, interjected McCabe when that question was slung O’Connor’s way. “Thank you!”, replied O’Connor. 

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Tomorrow’s opponents Montenegro are the group’s lowest seeds, and were battered 10-0 by Germany on Saturday. 

“Yeah I’d say that tomorrow is a must-win but I’m confident we can get the three points”, said McCabe in the context of the qualification process: the nine group winners are guaranteed qualification, with the three best-ranked runners-up joining them. The six remaining runners-up go to a play-off to determine the final three teams heading to the tournament in England. 

O’Connor took time to tell Megan Rapinoe and USA coach Jill Ellis that their World Cup exploits caught the attention of the Irish public, and McCabe is hoping the tournament’s success will add to the crowds at Tallaght Stadium for tomorrow’s game. 

“I’m hoping for a Shamrock Rovers/Bohs turnout!”, said McCabe in reference to the record 7,021 crowd at Friday’s derby.

“I’m hoping off the back of the World Cup, and having RTE cover it over the summer, it’s shown Ireland it is something to come and watch. So I’m hoping to see the Irish public come out and support us tomorrow night.” 

Training has been focused on breaking down Montenegro’s deep defence, and Ireland will take confidence from a 9-0 win over the same opponents in qualifying for Euro 2017. 

Ireland have no injury concerns ahead of tomorrow night, and thus have a fully fit squad to choose from. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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