Plenty gained, in­sists O’Neill, de­spite de­feat

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL -

MICHAEL O’NEILL in­sisted there would be no dam­ag­ing ef­fect to North­ern Ire­land af­ter they fin­ished their Cen­tral Amer­i­can tour with a 3-0 loss to Costa Rica in San Jose.

The World Cup-bound Los Ti­cos joined Ger­many and Croa­tia as the only teams to have de­feated the North­ern Ir­ish by more than one goal since Novem­ber 2014.

Jo­han Vene­gas and Francisco Calvo both scored from Joel Camp­bell cor­ners, in-be­tween the Arse­nal man’s strike just af­ter the break.

O’Neill, whose side drew 0-0 with Panama on Tues­day, took a rel­a­tively young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced squad on the trip, hand­ing out four de­buts across the two fix­tures, and he stressed the pos­i­tives of the 10-day tour out­weighed the neg­a­tives.

“The al­ter­na­tive is not to do some­thing like this and play a game at home against low op­po­si­tion,” said O’Neill.

“This is a new ex­pe­ri­ence, a good ex­pe­ri­ence for me as a coach, a good ex­pe­ri­ence for the play­ers.

“This doesn’t dam­age us in any way. Come Septem­ber we’ll be ready to play and we look for­ward to the Na­tions League.

“It would have been nice to come out here and get two pos­i­tive re­sults. To­day has just shown maybe it was a game too much.

“We were heav­ily re­liant on our older boys and it’s a big ask. There’s po­ten­tial there but we can’t ex­pect these young lads to come in and play in­ter­na­tional foot­ball. Most of them aren’t even play­ing club foot­ball.

“The first hur­dle for these play­ers is to get reg­u­lar club foot­ball, and at as high a level as pos­si­ble. The next step is in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

“(Steven) Davis, (Oliver) Nor­wood, (Ge­orge) Sav­ille, (Kyle) Laf­ferty, (Conor) Wash­ing­ton, (Jamie) Ward...there’s a lot of play­ers to come back into the squad. I’ve en­joyed it and I’m not go­ing to be too de­spon­dent about to­day’s re­sult.”

Costa Rica, who face Eng­land at El­land Road on Thurs­day, rep­re­sented a step up in qual­ity from Panama, as ac­knowl­edged by O’Neill.

“Costa Rica are a team that don’t have any huge stars,” he added. “I think when they get to the tour­na­ment they’re ca­pa­ble of caus­ing up­sets. They’re ca­pa­ble of get­ting to the last 16.

“I think they’re well geared to deal with the tour­na­ment. It’s a lit­tle bit like Chile – some­times these play­ers are bet­ter for their na­tional team than they are for their clubs – they raise their level in the na­tional team jersey.”

PIC­TURES: AP/MOISES CASTILLO.

TOUGH DAY: North­ern Ire­land’s Josh Ma­gen­nis moves past Costa Rica’s Johnny Acosta in San Jose yes­ter­day.

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