'These boys play in big, big leagues' - O'Neill defends Ireland's performance

The Irish coach was also less than happy with some of the officiating tonight.

Martin O'Neill pictured during tonight's match.
Martin O'Neill pictured during tonight's match.
Image: Nick Potts

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill was in bullish mood after seeing his side draw 2-2 in Serbia tonight.

The 64-year-old coach praised his side’s character as a late Daryl Murphy goal rescued a point for the Boys in Green.

“You knew they were going to come back into the game in the second half, and they did so. But we roared back into the game after conceding the penalty,” O’Neill said, speaking to RTÉ Sport.

Murphy’s come up with a great goal and we deserved a point without question.

“(Murphy is) fit, regardless of his age, and he’s steamed in and it was a great goal for us, and for him too.”

O’Neill also rejected suggestions that Ireland’s performance was inadequate and that they should have kept the ball better.

You’re playing away from home against Serbia — it’s very difficult, these boys play in big, big leagues.

“Funnily enough, they gave it away a few times because of the conditions

“You can’t be expecting to control a game away from home for 90 minutes against Serbia — that’s lunacy.”

In addition, the Derry native had some less-than-kind words for the referee, after a number of dubious decisions from Viktor Kassai of Hungary went against the visitors.

“We’ve fought back magnificently from going a goal behind — they tell me that the penalty decision was a wee bit soft.

I thought the referee wasn’t sure about his game at all tonight. If he books Stephen Ward for the foul early on, then he’s got to book the player down on my left-hand side about 15 minutes later, which he doesn’t bother (to do).”

Ultimately though, O’Neill said he was satisfied with the outcome under the circumstances, as Ireland earned a point in their opening World Cup qualifier.

We’ve got a point, we’re off the mark and the players were brilliant. It was the sort of courage they’ve shown in the last couple of years and I’m delighted with them. It’s a great point this early on in the competition.

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“I don’t know what else you’re expecting. Some of the young players coming in are very fine players. They’re going to improve and get fitter as the season goes on, and that point sets us up for next month.

“I don’t think you realise how difficult it is to go away from home and score twice in these conditions.”

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