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Martin O'Neill was involved in a tetchy post-match interview on RTÉ tonight

The Irish boss praised his side’s performance and in particular, the display of James McClean.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

MARTIN O’NEILL WAS accused of being “thin-skinned” and “prickly” after a tetchy post-match interview with RTÉ reporter Tony O’Donoghue tonight.

O’Neill seemingly objected to O’Donoghue’s suggestion that Ireland had “gone ahead in lots of games and conceded,” with a somewhat tense few minutes of TV ensuing.

“I’m not so sure that’s absolutely true,” O’Neill responded. “Some of the sides we played , you’re talking about France there. We got in front in Italy and stayed on. We got in front in Georgia and stayed on.

“Serbia? Away from home? Who have just won tonight against Austria? Not bad. Not bad at all.

I think you’re forgetting we actually fought back to earn an equaliser and also the goal they took the lead with was a very dubious penalty.”

When later asked about the performance of substitute Callum O’Dowda, O’Neill sarcastically responded: “There you are, you’ve mentioned four or five players, you’ve done very well.”

The tension between the two originated from a pre-match RTÉ interview in which O’Neill seemed unimpressed with a question relating to Wes Hoolahan’s place in the side, and the manager was subsequently criticised by RTÉ pundit Richie Sadlier for being “thin-skinned” and the former Ireland striker added: “If he is to assess this honestly, there are a lot of areas that the Irish team can improve on.”

Asked about the rollicking that he supposedly gave the players at half-time, O’Neill said: “That’s immaterial. I have to do a job here. My job is important, the players are important, players have to respond to things you say as well. And they’ve responded for the last couple of years.”

When asked about his general assessment of the game, the 64-year-old coach was full of praise for his team.

“We played very well. We started off brilliantly. Shane scored early for us, settled us down and we could have scored two or three before half-time.

There was a bit of a dunderhead moment and we conceded and suddenly, it’s parity again at half-time when the game probably should have been won. We had to do it again in the second half. The goal gave them a lift, they came in at half-time absolutely buoyant and we were a bit deflated.

“Even so, we pulled it round and we’ve won the game and we deserve to win it.”

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O’Neill also singled out matchwinner James McClean for praise, saying:

“He does some fantastic things in the game, closes players down pretty well and because he’s a left winger, he sometimes goes in like a left winger and maybe misses the one that they might play through.

Having said this, he’s a left winger and he got two goals for us tonight. He got himself in good positions and did brilliantly for us and he’s got the heart the size of a lion. We’re delighted with him.”

The Irish boss also warned against reading too much into early results, despite Wales seemingly dropping two points against Georgia earlier.

“That came as no surprise to me. The games are tough. It’s a wee bit too early to try to read much into it. But we’re delighted tonight.

“We’ll try to get ourselves prepared for Austria (next month).”

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Paul Fennessy

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