Martin O’Neill last night paid tribute to his players, who “have not an ounce left to give” after ten man Republic of Ireland lost to France in Lyon yesterday. Shane Duffy was sent off after 65 minutes but Ireland were already trailing 2-1, after an Antoine Griezmann double over-turned Robbie Brady’s second minute penalty.
France are now through to the last eight on Sunday at Stade de France, where they will play either England or Iceland.
O’Neill wondered what might have happened had Ireland held out slightly longer than the hour or so they did, with Griezmann striking in the 57th and 61st minutes. Brady converted Ireland’s penalty with his first touch of the ball.
“There’s a natural disappointment considering position we got into in the course of game,” he said. “I think if goals we conceded were maybe another six or seven minutes later maybe we could have used that to our advantage, France might have been panicking. It was naturally disappointing to lose two goals.
“But the players could not have given more. They have not an ounce left to give. It’s great for the young players to take their place on to this stage and obviously for the supporters.” The Irish fans hailed the players, who stood and watched as the supporters sang Fields of Athenry to them. “Whatever the fans think about the team, it is mutual on the players’ part,” said O’Neill.
There was notable emotion among the home fans as well as first they feared the hosts being eliminated from their own tournament at the first knockout stage. The French players were booed off at half-time but were treated as heroes at the end – particularly Griezmann. “This team is making the fans fall in love with them,” said France boss Didier Deschamps.