Northern Ireland travel to the Aviva tonight to face Martin O’Neill’s squad in a friendly, their first meeting since Ireland thrashed Michael O’Neill’s side 5-0 in 2011.
Both teams are desperate to win the clash tonight, Northern Ireland have had just two wins in the last eleven games, while Ireland haven’t done much better with just one win from nine games.
Both teams sit at the bottom of their Nations League groups however Ireland did slightly better, after securing one point from their draw with Denmark in the Aviva. Tonight’s game with provide a great warm up for both sides before their next Nations League clashes in the coming days. Northern Ireland play host to Austria on Sunday, so a result tonight will put them in the right head space for their closing game in the Nations Cup campaign.
Ireland travel to Denmark for Monday night’s Nations League game but Martin O’Neill has resigned himself to the fact that even if they win it won’t be enough to prevent relegation to the third-tier groups. O’Neill has come under fire for his team selection and their performance since the 2016 Euros so a win at home tonight may allay some heavy criticism.
Michael O’Neill on the other hand hasn’t been chastised as much since Northern Ireland qualified for the last 16 in the 2016 Euro’s despite a long run of bad luck since but he knows his squad need to prove themselves tonight against a squad of similar talent and experience.
He told the media “Martin’s squad is in transition like ours, I think Shane Long not being available to them is a blow. But we’ll have to deal with players coming in with a real enthusiasm to play, players that want to prove themselves at international level. Much like our players as well. With that comes a threat, the eagerness to do well, the eagerness to take the opportunity is something we have to match. They are an incredibly hard-working team, even in the results that have gone against them, it’s not been for a lack of endeavour and a lack of commitment or work rate.” He went on to say “It’s maybe been down to the quality of the opposition. Both teams are in a similar situation now and we expect a tough game.”
No doubt tonight’s match will be a big deal not only to the teams but to the supporters on the North and South side of the border, but which O’Neill will triumph in the end?