O’Neill: Hard coming back from slow start

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill admitted to a “hard evening” in Cardiff after seeing his side go down 4-1 to Wales in their UEFA Nations League opener on Thursday.

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The Boys in Green were missing several key players for the clash at the Cardiff City Stadium and were on the back foot virtually from the start when Tom Lawrence gave the Dragons a sixth-minute lead.

Further goals from Gareth Bale (18′), Aaron Ramsey (37′) and Connor Roberts (55′) killed off any hopes of a comeback for the visitors, although Shaun Williams (66′) did manage to pull one back in the second half.

Ireland suffered back-to-back defeats in competitive action for the first time under O’Neill, who admitted there was no way back after conceding two early goals.

“We were well beaten and it’s difficult – yes, missing some key players, but still well beaten,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think obviously we set out with good intentions but they scored early, the second goal from a world-class player [Bale], a world-class goal sets you back, 2-0 down, 15 minutes gone it’s a tough way back. It was a hard evening.

“We were unable to be missing five or six Premier League players and still put on a good show, we need to be at full strength. We can be, but I’m not sure when we have been, but I can’t remember when we have been as decimated as this.

“We try to be braver on the ball, that’s important regardless of what division they play in and the time they’ve had on the field of play. When they come here it’s a big step up and you have to be ready.”