FOOTBALL: Michael O’Neill ready for Romania after Aviva training game with Republic of Ireland

Stuart Dallas played the full 90 minutes at the Aviva
Stuart Dallas played the full 90 minutes at the Aviva

Michael O’Neill is confident Northern Ireland will be firing on all cylinders when they meet Romania on June 13.

O’Neill honed his squad with Thursday’s behind-closed-doors training game against the Republic of Ireland.

The session at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin finished in a diplomatic 0-0 draw.

O’Neill revealed he played his strongest panel in the fixture, as he looks to fine tune plans for next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Group F leaders Romania.

Northern Ireland sit second in the Pool ahead of the crunch clash at Windsor Park.

It is the latest acid test for O’Neill and his players as they look to keep their European dream alive.

And for the Northern Ireland boss, Thursday’s workout against Martin O’Neill’s Republic was a worthwhile exercise.

“It was good today,” he said.

“I thought in the first half we were excellent and played really, really well.

“The Republic changed their team in the second half and had a whole fresh 11 so it was tougher for us in the second half because we didn’t make as many changes as that.”

Northern Ireland hit the woodwork with a free-kick from Oliver Norwood, while striking talisman Kyle Lafferty also went close.

“We had some good chances in the first half and worked their goalkeeper so it was good. All in all, we got what we needed out of it,” O’Neill added.

“The game had really good intensity in it even though it was behind closed doors.

“I played my strongest team and we didn’t make any changes at half-time. We made changes throughout the second half as we felt people were maybe tiring a little bit.

“We made six or seven substitutions in the second half. Jonny (Evans) played 90 minutes, as did Gareth (McAuley), Stuart (Dallas) and Steven (Davis).

“If it had been a qualification game we would have been delighted with what we came away with. We would have been delighted with the performance.

“So there were a lot of plus points for me. Bit by bit I feel the squad is evolving and getting stronger and that’s what we want.”

Republic boss Martin O’Neill believes Thursday’s game was ideal preparation for his side ahead of their qualifier with Scotland on June 13.

“It was more than useful, it was very good, particularly for some of the players who had not played for quite some considerable time,” he said.

“In terms of the opposition, they were very strong and it was great for us. Obviously Northern Ireland have been together for a number of days now – they had the game against Qatar – and they are looking quite strong, so for us it was excellent.”