'I have always feared teams, it’s the best way to be. Then we go out and beat them'

Martin O’Neill was full of praise for his players after Ireland’s heroic victory over Wales.

O'Neill salutes the visiting Irish fans.
O'Neill salutes the visiting Irish fans.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


The Welsh capital can now be added to the list of cities that have witnessed Martin O’Neill’s finest results in international football.

After watching his team kill off Wales’ chances of World Cup qualification while keeping their own hopes alive, O’Neill pointed to the courage and spirit shown by his players in tonight’s 1-0 win.

Ireland were under the cosh at times, but a heroic defensive display coupled with James McClean’s clinical finish were enough to send the Boys in Green into the play-offs.

“The performance of the players was fantastic, absolutely fantastic,” O’Neill said afterwards. “We had to withstand a lot of pressure, which you would expect. Wales put us under that pressure, as befits a side that had done so brilliantly at the Euros.

“But we had to come here to win in Cardiff tonight and we have done exactly that, so it was a great performance by the players.

James scores a great goal for us and then we have to withstand more pressure. But every single time it went into our penalty area, we had men there. There were some great performances all round — Duffy was fantastic for us tonight but so were a lot of the players.

He added: “It was really great tonight. To come and win in Wales was fantastic and the players will not give up — that’s the point. We might lack a few things but courage is not one of them.”

Wales v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Cardiff City Stadium Match-winner McClean shows his delight at full-time. Source: Nigel French

McClean scored his fourth goal of the qualifying campaign and O’Neill had nothing but admiration for his fellow Derry man after the final whistle.

“He has just been magnificent,” he said. “His energy… When you see James getting tired in a game with 10 minutes to go, you realise the rest of the players must be really tired because James just keeps going.

His drive and determination have been a trademark for us now and he has been absolutely magnificent.”

Ireland now march on into Tuesday’s play-off draw ahead of a two-legged tie next month with a spot at next year’s finals in Russia at stake.

“I don’t think everybody would want to play us,” O’Neill said. “Do I fear teams in there? Absolutely — every single one of them. But I have always feared teams, it’s the best way to be. Then we go out and beat them — or so I try.

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“I think I speak for a lot of the nations in the play-offs. I don’t think anyone would want to play Italy. I don’t think anyone would want to be playing Portugal, although Portugal might beat Switzerland and there is about six others I would rather not have but I am delighted to be in it.”


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Ben Blake

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