Nations League: Martin O’Neill defends Republic of Ireland over ‘primitive’ playing style remark

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.

Martin O’Neill has defended his Republic of Ireland team after seeing their style of play described as “primitive” by Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney.

Ireland belatedly opened their Nations League account with a point from a dour 0-0 draw with the Danes in Dublin on Saturday evening 11 months after achieving a similar result in Copenhagen in the first leg of a World Cup play-off.

After that game, Delaney described playing against O’Neill’s team as like “opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands”, and it was meant as a compliment.

After his latest trip to the Aviva Stadium, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder insisted he was not being disparaging when he referred to Ireland’s combative approach as “primitive”, but it drew a curt response from the Republic boss.

O’Neill said: “It’s not long ago that Denmark were considered a primitive side with a world-class player. Sometimes it’s quite easy to make those sort of remarks.

“Denmark, who did exceptionally well in the World Cup, eventually didn’t cause us many problems and they can play pretty primitively too - the centre forward, who’s 6’7”, Cornelius, who didn’t play in the game - they’re a strong, physical side.

“If you asked teams around Europe, they’ll say [Christian] Eriksen, world-class, Delaney’s a top-quality player, little [Pione] Sisto plays in a big league as well in Spain.

“They’re as physical a side as you’ll see in European football, so I wouldn’t concern myself about other remarks.”

O’Neill is well aware of the need to inject greater creativity into a side which simply does not boast the quality of an Eriksen or a Gareth Bale, one of a series of players who will be missing from the Wales team which will face Ireland at the Aviva on Tuesday evening.

They will have to win at least one of their remaining two games - they head for Denmark next month - if they are to avoid relegation from League B.