CLONDALKIN man Glenn Whelan was quick to praise manager Martin O’Neill for his influence on the national side in the wake of the Republic of Ireland’s memorable 1-1 draw with Germany last Tuesday night.
The midfielder was one of three changes to the starting line-up that played against Gibraltar in that Euro 2016 championship group match over the weekend, coming into the midfield along with fellow Clondalkin man Stephen Quinn in the centre of the park.
Whelan was subsequently withdrawn 10 minutes into the second due to an injury sustained in a collision with Lukas Podolski but, speaking after the match, he believed O’Neill had given the players the confidence they needed to keep pushing right to the end, an attitude that led to John O’Shea’s 94th minute equaliser.
“Obviously, the new manager has come in with his own ideas and beliefs,” said the midfielder, “and it shows the confidence that he’s brought that we had the character to go to the [home of the] world champions and not give up.
“I think the last five minutes [saw] probably our best chances, we had one or two, and we might have scored from Wes [Hoolahan who had] one a few minutes earlier, but it didn’t matter who got it, we were just grateful to nick something at the end and we got away with a result, it keeps us going.”
The result leaves Ireland with a share of top spot in their European qualifying group, tied with Poland after three rounds of matches, with Germany lying three points back.
And Whelan, a staple in the centre of the park under Giovanni Trapattoni, says that he is enjoying the battle for places under O’Neill.
“Obviously the manager’s got a big name in football. He’s given everybody their chance, it’s a new belief for everyone, new players coming into a new squad.
“We’ve got a great feeling there, it’s like a club and if we can keep that going then it will get us places.”
And that belief helped carry Ireland to this famous result.
“Even at 1-0 you’re always in with a chance. It’s the Irish spirit, the Irish passion; you keep going to the death. Maybe if it had been two or three then heads would have slumped, but being 1-0 down we still had a chance.
“In the end, it was great for John. A hundred caps and to get the goal and a result at the end, it was a perfect night.
“And it was the performance that we felt we needed to kick on, because we have belief in what we can do in this campaign,” said Whelan.