Ireland boss keen to 'light up' Euro 2016 alongside O'Neill, Hodgson and Coleman

The Ireland boss admits his a little envious of his international colleagues.

Martin O'Neill was in fine form ahead of tomorrow's play-off.
Martin O'Neill was in fine form ahead of tomorrow's play-off.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ben Blake reports from Bosnia-Herzegovina

AS HE HEADS into the biggest four days of his international managerial career, Martin O’Neill admits to feeling more than a little envious of his Northern Irish, English and Welsh counterparts.

With qualification to Euro 2016 wrapped up, Michael O’Neill, Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman are all enjoying a much less hectic international break this week.

Less than 24 hours out from the first of a two-legged play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Derryman O’Neill fielded questions on a squad considerably weakened by injuries and suspensions, the quality of the opposition and his namesake’s recent achievements in the bowels of the Bilino Polje Stadium in Zenica.

“It doesn’t bring any pressure at all,” responded O’Neill. “I’m from Northern Ireland and I’m delighted with them qualifying and for Michael as he has done very well indeed. It has been a great effort by them but I can’t concern myself with that.

“I think it would be fantastic if both countries could qualify. I was involved with Northern Ireland way back in the World Cup in 1982 and it was fantastic.”

“We still have to get there but at least Michael is there. Tonight, I’m quite sure he is having a cigarette somewhere — smoking and enjoying himself,” he joked.

“The same with Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman. It is great, I feel envious and I would like to join them on Monday night if it is at all possible but so will my counterpart here in Bosnia.

“It would be nice, so I hope Michael takes that cigarette out of his mouth and stops smoking!”

Seamus Coleman The Irish players take in Stadion Bilino Polje in Zenica. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

David Meyler was the latest player added to the growing list of walking wounded this evening.

It has been revealed that the Hull City midfielder could be out for eight weeks with two tears in his knee ligaments after a collision in training and joins Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, Rob Elliot, Paul McShane, Shane Long as well as suspended duo Jon Walters and John O’Shea.

Instead of bemoaning the unavailability of those absentees, however, O’Neill was remaining upbeat and said it is part and parcel of the game.

“David sustained an injury yesterday, a blocked challenge, and he will be out of action for a couple of weeks, which is not good news of us or his club,” he said.

“The (talk of) missing of key players hasn’t come from myself or the players concerned, it has seems to be the talk of the week.

“It was almost inevitable that we would miss players. First of all, before we even gathered we knew John O’Shea and Jon Walters would be missing for the first game through suspension.

“We have a number of players on yellow cards, like Bosnia. All these things are going to play a part, but it is how we cope with them that is the most important thing.

“In two weeks’ time, nobody ever remembers who is so it doesn’t affect me.

“In an ideal world, it would be good to have everybody available as that gives you your best chance but that doesn’t matter. We have to go and compete really strongly in these two games.”

So with so many players ruled out, does that make picking his starting XI any easier?

“I don’t think that’s the case. We have a squad of 23 some players like Harry Arter, who did very well against England, is coming back to some sort of fitness and has played a few games for Bournemouth.

“We’ve got a few players like that now. Little Alan Judge has found his way into the squad and is desperate to be part of things. So the team selection is as difficult as it has been before.”

Despite the limited numbers and the suggestions by some that the starting XI nearly picks itself at this point, O’Neill has a tendency to throw the odd curveball with his selections.

We eagerly await the team announcements an hour from kick-off.

– First published 22.25, 12 November

‘It’s unfortunate it didn’t go the distance – that’s the heartbreaking bit’

‘It gives us even more power’ – Dzeko glad to be facing Ireland at Bosnia’s ‘special’ little stadium

About the author:

Ben Blake

Read next: