SportSoccer

O'Neill not feeling the pressure ahead of Austria clash

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill is certainly not feeling any pressure 24 hours in advance of Ireland's vital World Cup qualifier against Austria in Vienna.

Asked if he would put in a call to Ronald Koeman at Everton to end their recent spat, the Irish boss joked that he might, "but only after I put one in to Donald Trump to congratulate him and to Hillary too to commiserate."

Clearly Koeman won't be seeing Martin's phone ID pop up on his phone anytime soon, but that he could take time to make jokes shows O'Neill to be at ease with the task ahead of him tomorrow.

He spoke of the game being "important, but what happens in Dublin next year will be pivotal", he added, a reference to Ireland's home games against Wales (March), Austria (June) and Serbia (September) all to come in 2017.

O'Neill was definitely interested in the overnight weather forecast which is talking about dumping 20cm of snow on the ground. If it arrives at all, the snow is forecast to stop by lunchtime and the Austrian authorities say there is no danger of the game being called off as the pitch has undersoil heating.

Asked if he thought he was a weather Jonah, given that Ireland played in fog in Bosnia last year and in heavy rain in Serbia in September, O'Neill blamed it all on his Press Officer Ian Mallon sitting beside him. "You didn't tell me," O'Neill laughed, again the actions of a man feeling not feeling any heat right now, 20cm of snow or not.

Austria's boss Marcel Koller is a football boss taking a hit, and questioned of whether nothing but a win for the home side tomorrow would keep them in the race, O'Neill demurred.

"No, they got a fine away win in Georgia in the very first match, that's a win that everyone other country in the group will do well to match."

The Irish manager confirmed that James McClean should be fit to start tomorrow and skipper Seamus Coleman insisted the team are focused and ready to go.

The Killybegs defender also dodged any suggestion that he is a 'piggy-in-the-middle' between O'Neill and Koeman as they fight over James McCarthy's fitness. "Not at all," noted the Everton and Ireland right-back, "I'm here to concentrate on getting three points and nothing else, that's nothing to do with me."

And concentrate is something Ireland will need to do. Three years ago, Austria's star David Alaba scored late in Dublin to get his team a draw and late in Vienna to get a win.

The four points lost there cost Ireland a shot at going to the 2014 World Cup Finals  - and the Vienna defeat cost Giovanni Trapattoni his job. The Irish team and management are clearly in no mood for a repeat this time around.