The Republic of Ireland couldn’t have done without three points in the Italy match which was their last match in the initial round in Euro.
So, it was a no-brainer that they would be using their first pick XI to play the game, but, Martin O’Neill, at that crucial juncture, dropped several of the first picks. It was questionable even though the Greens went on to achieve the necessary win.
But, as per O’Neill, he had felt in the match the team had played prior to the Italy match that a couple of players were not at the level of speed he would have liked and he knew that the Azzurri, having advanced, were going to bring in their back-ups to protect their main men for the pre quarter final and the back-ups coming in would be more energetic as they had not played any match till then. So, to counter them, more speed would be required from his side and that could only come from the players who were fresh. So, he thought of making changes.
O’Neill is thankful that the response of all those who were left on the side-lines, one of which was the deputy skipper John O’Shea as well, was professional and nobody really murmured about it.
O’Shea is one of the 6 players who have had a century of appearances for Republic of Ireland. His no. of appearances, which is 114, is lesser only to that of Robbie Keane and Shay Given. However, the Euro was probably the worst tournament in the career of the defender and the rumours of him retiring are on the peak.
But, O’Neill is looking for one more season from the veteran as he reckons he needs him in World Cup qualification matches.