Sports Update: O’Neill on Eriksen’s absence: We’re missing a world-class player too

The Irish boss says the unavailability of captain Seamus Coleman will be keenly felt on Saturday night.

– Paul Fennessy reports from Abbotstown

IRELAND BOSS MARTIN O’Neill has said Ireland’s injury issues ahead of the Denmark Nations League clash are of similar significance to those suffered by their opponents.

Totenham’s Christian Eriksen, a key player for the Danes who hit a hat-trick the last time the sides met, is set to be absent for Saturday night’s game at the Aviva with a stomach problem.

However, the Derry native pointed to Ireland’s own list of long-term absentees as an advantage for their opponents.

“[Eriksen is] a world-class player, of course, it’s true. I’m sure in the same way they would look at some of the players we have missing, a world-class player in our captain, our team, is missing, Seamus Coleman.

“And we haven’t had the services of Robbie Brady and James McCarthy for some time. We’ve some terrific footballers, including the man beside me [Jeff Hendrick], whose got some experience now, who did brilliantly in the Euros a couple of years ago. I’m thinking of [him] taking on that mantle and kicking on, not only in his own [club] career and for us at international level.”

O’Neill confirmed that Hendrick would start tomorrow’s game, and continued to suggest that he was considering switching to a 3-5-2 formation, after the 4-4-2 system failed to pay dividends during last month’s 4-1 defeat in Wales.

“I think initially club form is very important, it’s important first of all for someone to be playing in their club team and playing regularly, and to be playing at a high level. All of those things are very important. We don’t have that luxury of players playing every week, even in the Championship, we have to make adjustments. It would be great if all our players were playing in the big league and playing regularly. 

“Some of the players who did fine for us in Poland, less than a month ago, find themselves not starting in their teams at Championship level. They have to come back, re-adjust, and get prepared again. Those things take a bit of time. It’s something we might not have a great deal of. Jeff mentioned we came in and had three or four days training which is great. But psychologically we might have players who haven’t started for their clubs, they are forced into this games here and they have to adjust and apply themselves.”

In addition, reflecting on the painful 5-1 World Cup play-off defeat to the Danes in Dublin last November, O’Neill suggested Ireland could have won the game had things turned out differently.

“We took the confidence from Copenhagen and took the lead and my own view is we had a chance to make it 2-0 and had James McClean’s chance gone in, we would have gone to Russia. That said, Denmark fought back, great credit to them, which meant we had to chase the game in the second half and we got picked off in the match. We had a world-class performance from a world-class player [Eriksen] who was simply sublime on the night.”

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