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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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O'Neill singles out Horgan for praise but admits Ireland weren't good enough

The Preston winger made a noticeable impact after being introduced in the second half of tonight’s match.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL RESERVED praise for Ireland’s new faces and particularly Daryl Horgan as a much-changed team were beaten 1-0 by Iceland in the Aviva Stadium tonight.

However, the manager also admitted he was dissatisfied with aspects of the team’s display.

“There were a number who made debuts — that was great for them, going out on to the field in an Irish shirt,” the 64-year-old coach said.

But the over-riding fact is that we lost the game and while it’s a non-competitive match, they do mean things and it would have been nice to have won, particularly after Friday evening, and it was a set-piece.

“We had a lot of the ball in the second half, I thought Horgan coming on did really fine in the time he was on the field. He caused a few problems and whipped in a couple of great balls and unfortunately we weren’t able to finish them off.”

While the Irish team were rarely troubled by the visitors aside from the goal, they also seldom looked like scoring down the other end, and O’Neill admitted the attacking element of their game was a concern. He added that he had considered playing captain Robbie Brady in a more advanced position but a lack of alternatives at left-back prevented him from doing so, after Stephen Ward played the full 90 minutes against Wales on Friday.

“First of all, first half, we didn’t do well at all. We conceded a goal from a set piece — not that Iceland created a great deal either. The second half, I thought we had loads of possession. But you’re right — creating some clear-cut chances is something we have to try to do better.

Tonight would be great for some of the players to play and to know what it’s like to step out and play at international level and try to do well in the length of time they’re on the field of play.

“Sometimes it is very difficult. There were a couple of lads making their debut. Johnny Egan I thought did fine. He got a cut head after a couple of minutes. We bandaged him up. And (Conor) Hourihane played for the first time. Some of those lads have that experience now.

What I think will happen is that players now will obviously go back and resume club duties. From my own viewpoint, I hope they stay clear of serious injury. And maybe the time (the next qualifier in) June comes around, we might have some of the other players back.”

O’Neill also expressed frustration with the manner in which the game’s only goal was conceded, suggesting the defensive wall was at fault as Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson’s free kick found the net to hand Iceland a win in what was one of their few attempts on goal.

“We didn’t do well enough (for the goal). It was set up. There were players in it. And from our point of view, you have to do better.

We talk about set pieces deciding big games or World Cup matches. They’re deciding World Cup finals, they’re deciding Champions League finals, regardless of who you’re playing, they’re so important. Defending set pieces, corner kicks and free kicks are of paramount importance. Tonight, in this game, we didn’t do it.

“Overall, we lost the game, but there were positives that came out of it. Young Horgan should be pretty pleased with his contribution.”

Meanwhile, O’Neill’s Icelandic counterpart Heimir Hallgrímsson admitted the match was far from a classic.

“I think we are quite equal teams playing a similar style of football, both tactically really well organised, defensively well organised, so it was a game of few chances,” he said.

“We think there are similarities between these teams and I hope we have the same determination as the Irish because that’s what we love about the Irish, the determination on the pitch.”

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Paul Fennessy

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