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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019

Martin O'Neill not interested in Fifa controversy, falls short of backing Delaney

In addition, the manager expressed hope that supporters would behave at the Ireland-England game.

O'Neill: "I think it will be competitive -- it’s Ireland v England."
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Updated at 10.45

MARTIN O’NEILL HAS urged fans to behave ahead of today’s Ireland-England clash, while refusing to be drawn on the recent controversy involving Fifa and the FAI.

It is the first time that the teams have met in 20 years on Irish soil, with the Lansdowne Riot marring the last meeting between the sides in 1995 at Ireland’s home ground.

“I’m hoping that the crowd will be behaved,” O’Neill said. “I hope we give them something to cheer about and that times have moved on from 20 years ago.

“I don’t think anybody would like to see [a repeat of] those scenes from 20 years ago.”

O’Neill is also looking forward to a game that he expects to be more intense than the average friendly.

“I think it will be competitive — it’s Ireland v England. It’s a good one for us because it will give an opportunity for the players who haven’t played for some time to get game time before the Scotland game.”

Meanwhile, the Ireland manager was reluctant to comment on the recent Fifa-FAI controversy.

“There was something that was made public knowledge a few months ago,” he said. “It was out there in the public domain and I wasn’t any more aware than anyone else.

“I haven’t had time to study it in depth. I’m not a European lawyer, so I won’t be taking it into consideration.

“What I could say is that the FAI have given me this opportunity to manage the team and I was delighted to take it and push forward in a footballing sense as much as I can. This game and the Scotland game have given me full attention.”

Moreover, asked whether he fully supports John Delaney, O’Neill responded:

“John Delaney brought me in. He wanted me to manage the side and that is what I’m looking at and that’s what I want to do. I haven’t had any discussions on the political side with John.

“I don’t think it’s in my domain just at this moment. I’m the manager of the team.”

He also dismissed suggestions that the controversy could affect the team and played down a tweet from Jon Walters, in which he joked that he had given a £5million tip at a restaurant last night.

“I think that John [O'Shea] was asked that question and he said that it hasn’t affected the players… I wouldn’t have minded eating in that restaurant. The players wanted to head out [last night] because they were bored with my company.”

O’Neill added that he did not regret famously missing out on the England job a few years ago and reserved high praise for Roy Hodgson’s men.

“They are looking to be the dominant force and now they have got to the stage of the group that they can look at a few alternatives.

“They are almost certain to qualify and he will have the chance to look at younger players before [the tournament in] France. It seems to be from a distance that there is a good atmosphere [in the England squad].”

O’Neill also confirmed that Wes Hoolahan missed training due to a family bereavement, while Stephen Ward picked up an ankle knock in the behind-closed-doors game against Northern Ireland, but confirmed that he came through training without any further setbacks today.

Additional reporting by Ben Blake

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Paul Fennessy

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