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O'Neill says Ireland must be better, suggests 'expectation' may have gotten to players

The Ireland boss also explained his decision to replace record goalscorer Robbie Keane at half-time.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill celebrates at the final whistle.
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill celebrates at the final whistle.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated at 1.35am

MARTIN O’NEILL EXPRESSED relief following Ireland’s 1-0 win over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium last night, but admits it was a far from perfect performance.

O’Neill suggested the “expectation” may have gotten to the players amid what he described as a “tentative” first half.

“I’m not sure why we should be after we won on Friday,” he said. “We lacked energy and created very little. That was a bit of a worry.

“[In the second half], we deserved to get the goal and win the game.”

“The players had good determination about them, which wasn’t showing in the first half

“As a consequence [of the first half], we gave them a bit of confidence, which they also got from Friday night’s result against Scotland.”

The Ireland boss admitted the decision to replace record goalscorer Robbie Keane at half-time was a difficult one.

“We still had to get a goal and our best goalscorer had to sit in the dressing room.

“Robbie has been terrific but he’s not getting any younger. I didn’t think we had great energy in the first half.”

O’Neill paid tribute to the performances of Jon Walters and Jeff Hendrick, both of whom linked up well for the goal.

“It came right out of the blue. It was a great run. [Hendrick] had to keep a bit of composure as well.

“He is improving. He is a strong lad. He has a lot on his plate at the minute with Derby, who have bought a few players. He’s determined to keep his place there. But for us, he’s growing in stature.”

The 63-year-old coach said he wouldn’t be getting carried away with last night’s result, stressing that it was still all to play for in the group.

“Naturally, I’m delighted to have won the game. But I don’t think we should start getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve opened up a bit of a gap but the head to head with Scotland might still come into play in a big way.

“We might as well have a go against the world champions, and we need to find a win in two matches.

“Germany are the best team in the group and possibly the best side in Europe. We will have to do better naturally for 90 minutes [against Germany].”

The Ireland manager also lamented the suspensions that mean Glenn Whelan and James McClean miss the Germany encounter, admitting that the yellow cards they picked up were “needless”.

“[Whelan has] won the header cleanly and the referee looks to have booked him for backchatting

“James said he won the ball. The minute the Georgians started to roll over, you knew the referee was going to give it.

“It was needless and we need the players, and if we thought about going in tactically in a different direction, James would have been a big part [of the Germany game].”

Meanwhile, Georgia manager Kakhaber Tskhadadze said he had “no complaints” with his players after two “very hard games”.

“We are on a level to play equally with Ireland and Scotland,” he added. “We are trying to bring younger players into the team and harmonise the team to achieve better results.”

Player ratings: How the Boys in Green fared against Georgia>

Absolutely brilliant skill from Hendrick finally unlocks Georgian defence>

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Paul Fennessy

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