Warren Feeney expects competitive edge to Northern Ireland’s ‘training’ game with Republic of Ireland

Warren Feeney (right) played the last time Northern Ireland met the Republic at the Aviva ' which resulted in a 5-0 defeat
Warren Feeney (right) played the last time Northern Ireland met the Republic at the Aviva ' which resulted in a 5-0 defeat

Former Northern Ireland striker Warren Feeney doesn’t expect Thursday’s training exercise with the Republic of Ireland to be a relaxed affair.

Michael O’Neill’s side will play namesake Martin’s Irish squad in a behind-closed-doors encounter at the Aviva Stadium.

It will give both managers the chance to survey their respective options ahead of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Northern Ireland will hope to bolster their qualification hopes with victory against Romania at Windsor Park on June 13, while the Republic entertain Scotland in Dublin on the same date.

But despite Thursday’s ‘training’ exercise being played away from any prying eyes, former Northern Ireland hitman Feeney believes the game will have a competitive edge.

“I know it has been billed as a training exercise, but I would expect there to be a competitive edge to it,” said Feeney.

“After all, it is a derby between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Both sets of players will be professional.

“Players will be looking to impress and make a point to their manager. I am sure they will all want to be involved in the competitive qualifiers.

“There are massive games coming up for Northern Ireland and the Republic – games that players want to play in.

“So Thursday’s training game will be a chance to impress the manager.

“Northern Ireland obviously play at home to Romania next Saturday night and if players do well against the Republic, Michael may decide to throw them in for the Euro qualifier, so there is going to be plenty of incentive in the Aviva stadium.”

Linfield boss Feeney – who earned 46 caps with Northern Ireland – believes Thursday’s game will be beneficial to Michael O’Neill and his players.

“The game is being played for a reason. It’s not just been arranged to have a kick-about and if Northern Ireland were to put in a good performance it would be a mental boost before the Romania match,” he added.

“I think it is a good match for Michael to have in the run up to the Romania game because it will be competitive and with it being behind closed the doors there will be less pressure.”

Feeney played the last time the two sides met four years ago.

It came in a Carling Nations Cup showdown at the Aviva Stadium, with Northern Ireland – under then manager Nigel Worthington – falling to a humbling 5-0 defeat.

Feeney was one of the few established stars to feature that night in Dublin, with Worthington forced to rely on youth and Irish League players.

“It was a horrible experience,” Feeney added.

“There weren’t any points at stake or anything like that, but to lose 5-0 to your derby rivals was tough.

“We had a player sent off as well to compound our misery.

“The whole Carling Nations tournament was tough because it was difficult to get an experienced squad assembled. We had a lot of youngsters playing and Irish League lads and it was a steep learning curve.”