Friendlies key for Ireland and Euro 2016 qualifying
Ireland will play Turkey at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on 25 May and are yet to formally confirm a second outing against Italy at Craven Cottage six days later, as well as proposed games against Costa Rica and Portugal in the United States in early June.
However, whatever fixtures the Republic eventually finalise, O’Neill will spend the time he has together with his players honing his squad for the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in September. As well as Scotland and Germany, the group contains Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar,
O’Neill, who was at the John Hartson Foundation golf day at Loch Lomond yesterday, explained: “We have a couple of friendly matches at the end of the season. There’s a possibility at this minute of maybe even a few extra games, but that has not been confirmed yet. But a bit like Scotland in that sense, we are concentrating really on trying to implement some sort of a plan, trying to see as much of the players as we possibly can. This period we will have at the end of the season, while not ideal for players, is absolutely fine for us and, of course, it’s an opportunity to see as many players as possible.”
O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane have been in charge since replacing Giovanni Trapattoni and his staff in November last year, recording a 3-0 home win over Latvia and a 0-0 draw in Poland before a 2-1 defeat by Serbia in Dublin earlier this month. But they know the big tests will come once they return to competitive action, and the manager has been given plenty food for thought by what he has seen so far.
O’Neill said: “We have had three games – the two games in November-time were in quick succession – at home to Latvia, which we would expect to win anyway and we did; the draw in Poland was fine, and although for long periods against Serbia I thought we played very well and possibly could have won the game, we lost the match. We have got plenty to discuss.”
The Republic qualified for the Euro 2012 finals under Trapattoni, but missed out on this summer’s World Cup in Brazil after finishing fourth in their group behind Germany, Sweden and Austria.