O'Neill backs Cyrus Christie to step up in Coleman's absence
He started at full-back during last night's defeat to Iceland12:20 Wednesday 29 March 2017, 12:20 29 Mar 2017
Martin O'Neill has backed Cyrus Christie to fill the void left by captain Seamus Coleman and praised his performance during Tuesday night's defeat to Iceland.
Ireland sunk to a 1-0 loss in a dour affair at the Aviva Stadium, but O'Neill took some positives from the display, including the performance of the Newcastle defender.
"Cyrus is a very, very good player and replacing Seamus Coleman who is one of the best full-backs in Europe, that'a a difficult task," he said during Tuesday's post match press conference.
"We're hoping that Cyrus is up to it. Hopefully he can stay clear of injuries for the next couple of months and these games will certainly give him a big boost.
"Any time he has played for us in Seamus' absence, he's done very well."
Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle were both handed substitute appearances and it was Horgan's energy which caught the eye of the Ireland manager.
"I thought Horgan coming on did really fine for the time he was on the field. Caused a few problems and put in a couple of great balls, but unfortunately we weren't able to finish them off.
"There were a number of debuts. It was great for them to be on the field in an Irish shirt. The overriding fact is that we lost the game. Although it is a non-competitive match, they do mean things. It would have been nice to have won, especially after Friday evening."
Cyrus Christie and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson contest possession during Tuesday night's friendly. Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
O'Neill admitted he thought there were "one or two players who did very well", using nine fringe players in his starting XI and an additional six substitutes.
Also in unfamiliar territory was Robbie Brady, who captained the side for the first time last night.
"I thought he took the captain's band very well indeed. He's a very good character, a good footballer. He had a good Euros [last summer], so now what he wants to try and do at club level is recapture that sort of form.
"He dealt with everything now tonight very well indeed."
O'Neill added that it was imperative that his players stay clear of injuries for the remainder of the club season, as Ireland's crunch World Cup qualifier with Austria in Dublin looms.
"Johnny Egan did fine, got a cut in the first couple of minutes in the match and had his head bandaged up. Conor Hourihane was playing for the first time. So those players will have that experience.
"What I think will happen is that the players now will go back and resume their club duties - very important no matter who they are paying for - and for my point hope they all steer clear of serious injury.
"Maybe by June time we'll have some of the other players back. Right now, it's in the lap of the gods."
The very best bits delivered every weekSubscribe now