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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 28 February 2021

'Camping outside our box for 90 minutes is a recipe for disaster - we have to be positive'

Martin O’Neill insists Ireland can’t afford to head into Monday’s Euro 2016 play-off second-leg in a defensive mindset.

O'Neill arriving for today's press conference alongside Ciaran Clark.
O'Neill arriving for today's press conference alongside Ciaran Clark.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE NATURAL PROPENSITY would be to play risk-free football and protect what we have but Martin O’Neill insists his Ireland side will be sent out with a positive mindset tomorrow night.

Robbie Brady’s precious away goal in Zenica has given the Boys in Green the edge heading into Monday’s second-leg against Bosnia-Herzegovina, although the tie remains finely poised after Edin Dzeko’s late equaliser.

Friday’s result means Ireland would qualify for Euro 2016 with a scoreless draw at the Aviva Stadium but O’Neill says it would be dangerous for the hosts to go out and play for a stalemate.

“I think we have to try and win the game, that’s it, it has to be in our mindset to win the game,” the Ireland manager said at the pre-game press conference.

“I think Bosnia are capable of scoring, any team are capable of getting a goal at some stage but Bosnia in particular and if we set out with any other mindset then things mighn’t work out for you.

“The tie is very finely balanced.”

O’Neill has been boosted by the return of Shane Long and John O’Shea after the pair took a full part in Sunday’s training session at FAI HQ.

He’ll give both players every opportunity to prove their fitness before kick-off but neither have played in recent weeks and match sharpness, in a game of this magnitude, is a concern.

Martin O'Neill O'Neill kept a close eye on his players as they were put through their paces earlier. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

If Long isn’t deemed fit enough to start, and with Daryl Murphy carrying a calf injury, O’Neill could suddenly find himself with a selection headache.

Nonetheless, the 63-year-old believes the best approach is to take the game to the visitors and not let them settle into the contest.

“If we think we can come out for 90 minutes and camp ourselves just outside our own penalty area – that would be a recipe for disaster,” O’Neill said.

“I think we have to consider being really on the front foot, genuinely, and trying to win this game. Have to be really really positive.

“If we get beaten here, it won’t be through a lack of trying. We might lack a few things in our side but a bit of strength of character I think is there and the likes of Jon Walters epitomises that.”

Walters is expected to slot straight back into the side after sitting out Friday’s game at the Bilino Polje Stadium through suspension.

The Stoke forward, who has scored three goals during the campaign, will add energy and industry to Ireland’s means and O’Neill acknowledged his worth.

“Jon has been terrific in the campaign and he epitomises the spirit we have in the side, never say die, he’s come up with big goals for us, two important goals, and he’s been pretty exceptional throughout the tournament,” the former Celtic, Leicester and Aston Villa boss commented.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of him.”

Walters was one of the central figures in Ireland’s indelible victory over world champions Germany in the last home game.

It was a memorable occasion for more reasons than one, not least because of the deafening atmosphere created inside the Aviva Stadium.

Jonathan Walters Jon Walters is available for Monday's second-leg after serving his one game ban. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With the sold-out signs expected to be in place on Lansdowne Road tomorrow evening, O’Neill believes the home fans can help inspire Ireland to Euro 2016 qualification.

“The crowd will get behind us and if we can get the atmosphere that we had against Germany, that will serve us greatly,” he added.

“They have been excellent the whole campaign but particularly in that game they sensed the importance of the event right from the start.

“They knew how good Germany were. We had our backs to the wall for periods of that game but they stayed very strong and kept us going.

“We’ll probably need that again tomorrow night.”

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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