Gareth Bale very lucky not to get red card against Ireland, claims Martin O'Neill

Damian Spellman
Bale insisted he was trying to slide the ball in rather than challenge John O'Shea: Getty

Martin O'Neill remains convinced Gareth Bale was fortunate not to see red as the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier showdown with Wales turned ugly.

The Real Madrid star was booked for a rash challenge on defender John O'Shea seconds before team-mate Neil Taylor launched the tackle which left Seamus Coleman with a double leg fracture during Friday night's 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium.

Wales boss Chris Coleman later defended both men - by his own admission having not had a chance to view replays of the two incidents - and revealed Bale had raised the possibility of contesting the yellow card which will see him miss June's trip to Group D leaders Serbia through suspension, although an appeal can only be made on the grounds of mistaken identity.

Republic counterpart O'Neill was at a loss to understand Bale's response, insisting instead that he could have suffered the same fate as Taylor and been dismissed by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli.

He said: "I can't see how they could possibly think about appealing a card when it was very, very close to being red and on another day, the referee could have easily given a red card.

"I will reiterate - I don't think anybody could disagree - both challenges were very, very poor."

Coleman faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he recovers from surgery to pin the broken tibia and fibula in his right leg with O'Neill bemoaning the loss of "one of the best full-backs in Europe".

The manager is not putting any time-frame on the Everton defender's rehabilitation but is all but resigned to his absence for the remainder of the qualifying campaign, with Derby's Cyrus Christie likely to get a chance to prove himself as his deputy in Tuesday night's friendly against Iceland.

O'Neill said: "We have got games coming up in September and October and my own view is that I think it would be a long shot if he was making those games.

"Seamus is very hard to replace - he is one of the best full-backs in Europe - and he has been inspirational, really, particularly since he has taken over as captain. He has been terrific, so he will be very hard to replace.

Seamus Coleman has undergone an operation on his broken right leg (Getty)

"Cyrus Christie is a very, very good player, a very talented player, very strong going forward and it's really up to him.

"I think he is capable of talking that step and the times that he's played for us before, he's done very well. He scored a very important goal against Gibraltar (during qualifying for Euro 2016) in the away game and a couple of minutes later, he headed one off the line, so he has had a contribution and it is up to him now."

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