An emotional Martin O’Neill couldn’t hide his disappointment after Ireland’s 5-1 hammering at the hands of Denmark on Tuesday night.
A superb hat-trick from Christian Eriksen, sandwiched in between a Cyrus Christie own-goal and Nicklas Bendtner penalty, dumped the Boys in Green out of the World Cup play-offs and but a final, fatal blow on their hopes of ending their 16-year wait to appear in the finals.
After a tense interview with RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue, O’Neill faced the media to dissect the worst 90 minutes of his time as Ireland manager, as well as face questions regarding his own future in the position.
To the latter point first, and although a new two-year deal has been agreed in principle between O’Neill and the FAI, the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager wouldn’t be drawn on his contract other than to say that he will talk to John Delaney in the coming weeks:
“I haven’t spoken to John Delaney about it since the agreement. I’ll sit down and discuss that with him in the coming weeks.”
O’Neill admitted that Ireland were beaten by a technically superior team on the night despite taking an early lead through Shane Duffy, and conceded that his side needed to double their advantage when the opportunities presented themselves:
“We’re really disappointed. We were well beaten in the end. The two goals we conceded within a couple of minutes knocked us. They were really poor goals to concede. We had to chase the game and Denmark took advantage.
“We had two great chances to make it 2-0, especially McClean’s one when he hit it just wide. We needed either of those to go in to get a real foothold in the game. That didn’t happen.”
The Ireland boss also agreed that the half time introductions of Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGready left the team exposed in the middle of the park:
“Yes, I can’t disagree with that. We needed goals, we needed width, but left ourselves exposed and Denmark took advantage.”
He did, however, take exception to a suggestion that his luck might have run out – caught out by mistakes when normally it is his side catching out others:
“That is simply not true. I didn’t win the trophies I have, either as a player or as a manager, and have some luck. Everyone is entitled to a bit of luck, so I totally disagree with you. We were well beaten tonight by a team that are technically superior to us and have a world class player playing in their team, but I don’t agree in terms of luck running out.
“I won enough trophies as a manager – I as involved in a UEFA Cup final – must have been some luck to get there.”
Where Ireland go from here remains to be seen, and indeed whther or not O’Neill’s reign has now run its course after desperately bleak night for Irish football.