O'Neill not dwelling on Dutch loss

PA Sport
Michael O'Neill

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Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill has told his Northern Ireland players they cannot allow their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Holland to scar them.

O'Neill, who had to cope with an absentee list reaching double figures for the clash in Amsterdam, saw a youthful side was brushed aside with ease by a Dutch team boasting one of the best forward lines in world football. Robin van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay both netted twice in the friendly victory, with Wesley Sneijder and Ron Vlaar also on target.

Northern Ireland scarcely mustered an attack of their own in response but O'Neill does not believe his men can afford to feel sorry for themselves. He said: "If you're scarred for the future by something like that then you're not cut out for international football."

O'Neill continued: "It has to make you tougher, it has to make you able to deal with it. That's part of football. Whether you're a player or a manager you have to deal with that disappointment. This will make me stronger as a manager and it will make the players stronger for what lies ahead too."

With so many senior men unavailable for the match, O'Neill handed debuts to Burnley left-back Daniel Lafferty, Walsall striker Will Grigg and Coventry defender James McPake. They are unlikely to face many harder evenings on the international stage and O'Neill hopes something positive can come from their experiences.

"We knew coming into the game the squad we had available to us. We had three debutants and it was a huge game for them to come in to," he said. "They are all very disappointed right now, as I am but hopefully in the cold light of day they will look back and it will be a harsh learning curve.

"It was a tough lesson at times but any experiences you have in football tend to make you stronger and I hope we learn something."

As well as blooding Lafferty, McPake and Grigg, O'Neill handed a maiden senior call-up to Swansea striker Rory Donnelly and gave veteran goalkeeper Roy Carroll his first cap in six years. And although he was clearly disappointed by the result of the match, O'Neill felt much better about the time he spent working with the squad.

"In friendly internationals the results are always secondary, really. It's more about preparation and what you get out of that," he said. "I always said the preparations would be more important than the game and that hasn't changed.

"We had great preparation but that doesn't always translate to a result. The three days we had with the players has been invaluable and it's another important layer of preparation before the World Cup qualifiers."

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