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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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'The people of Donegal and the people of Tyrone thanked me and the lads for the result'

Seamus Coleman took a break from the Irish camp yesterday to take in the Ulster Championship semi-final between Donegal and Tyrone.

THE IRISH SQUAD have been together for three weeks now, but they haven’t been kept entirely confined.

Jeff Hendrick was given time off ahead of the trip to Denmark to go to his brother’s wedding, while a few members of the squad escaped from the team hotel for a few hours last night. 

Seamus Coleman and Mark McHugh at the game Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

James McClean and Shane Duffy went to Tallaght to watch Derry City play Shamrock Rovers, while Seamus Coleman travelled further, taking in the Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final between Tyrone and his native Donegal in Cavan. 

“Yeah, I’m glad I asked the manager’s permission before I went as I’m sure he would have found out by now!”, laughed Coleman at a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Gibraltar in Dublin. 

“It was great to go, thankfully the manager let me pop out for a couple of hours. It was great to see Donegal win and play so well.” 

The win sends Donegal through to another Ulster final, where they will face either Cavan or Armagh. 

“Hopefully they can get that Ulster title again and go from there”, said Coleman.

“I thought they were very dangerous going forward and my own clubmen, Eoin Ban Gallagher and Hugh McFadden did very well, and Ryan McHugh is a great player. They have great players all around the pitch and hopefully they can win the final.” 

Coleman went to the game basking in the positivity engendered by Ireland’s late 1-1 draw with Denmark on Friday night, and says yesterday’s experience of being approached by GAA fans served to show the Irish football team retains an important place in the country’s affections. 

“The people of Donegal and even the people of Tyrone were very proud of the team, and thanked me and thanked the lads for the result. They were very happy to see that ball go in and very proud.

“That’s good to know that the country are behind us, it’s great for the players to realise that and when we are out there we do think of the fans.” 

Ireland must also think of the pragmatics of qualification tomorrow night, too. A win against Gibraltar would leave them at the top of Group D, with 10 points from 12 at the halfway point. 

That will set them up well ahead of the difficult run-in, where they must travel to Georgia and Switzerland before welcoming the Swiss and our friends from Denmark to Dublin to round out the campaign.

Ireland began the campaign with a 1-0 win away to Gibraltar, a relatively poor performance exacerbated by the conditions. 

Seamus Coleman Coleman speaks to the media. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Yeah, it was one we wanted to forget about as quickly as possible”, recalled Coleman.

“We got the three points which was what we wanted, everybody expected us to win by more but ask any of the players – the wind was crazy and all over the place. It was their first game at home too which made it more difficult too, they were right up for it.

“It was a tough night, and as the manager touched on, a great save by Daz [Darren Randolph] kept us in it.

“So we have to prepare the same again, at international level there are no easy games and we have to make sure we are fully prepared to get all three points tomorrow.” 

A performance more worthy of drawing on is the subsequent win against Georgia in Dublin. 

“Against Georgia, we had to press them first and try to win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible and play from there, and at times we did that very well against Georgia.

“And when we went 1-0 down against Denmark we played some really good football, so we are capable of it.

“We’re playing at home in front of our own fans so the result is the most important thing but of course we want to get the ball down and put on a performance.

“I think it is the best way to play, to try and win the ball back high up.

“Against good teams, and even against Denmark, we tried to do it. And there will be times when you get picked off with the likes of Eriksen playing it around the corner.” 

This will be the side’s first home game since the infamous tennis ball protest against Georgia, and Coleman has no doubt tomorrow night’s atmosphere will be just as good. 

“When the balls went off the pitch, the atmosphere went through the roof again so there are no question marks over the support we have, and never have been.

“And even after the Denmark game when we went out for the interviews, you could still hear the fans singing, so as far as I am concerned, they are the best fans in the world and they will show that at the Aviva.

“And when they do it is a hard place for any team to come to.”

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Gavin Cooney

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