REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill admits he can’t fault the effort of his players following their heroic exit from Euro 2016.
The Boys in Green suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday, having led the tournament hosts for almost an hour after Robbie Bady’s second-minute penalty.
Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann wreaked havoc in the second-half though, scoring two goals in four minutes as well as drawing Shane Duffy into a red card offence.
Ireland lost their composure during that nine-minute spell and it ultimately sent them home from the Euros, but O’Neill insists he’s proud of the effort shown by his players.
“It was a difficult game, but the players put everything into all of the games,” he said.
“We took a bit of time in the dressing room afterwards because they didn’t have any energy left. It was a great effort by the team and the supporters and I’m really sorry we couldn’t see this one through.”
Momentary lapses in concentration proved their downfall, but O’Neill believes his side were close to bringing France into unwanted territory.
"It's all ifs, buts and maybes, but if we had gone another six, seven, eight minutes without conceding, there would have been a lot of pressure on France and I think we could have used that to our advantage.
"The two goals that they scored came within two or three minutes of each other. If I look back, I think the goals we have conceded have been quite poor. That's my only annoyance."
There was one further annoyance for O’Neill though – the fact France had an extra three days to recover from their previous match, an advantage he deemed unfair.
"A three-day differential is genuinely too much and it took its toll on us in the second half," he said. "It will sound like an excuse and it's not meant to be. But it is incredible. It really is incredible.
"But people in Ireland can be very proud of the team."