It's a fresh start for everybody: Republic of Ireland defender Seamus Coleman
European 2020 Qualifying Group D: Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland (tonight, Victoria Stadium, Gibraltar, 5pm kick-off Irish time)
REPUBLIC of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman has drawn a line under the last 12 months and says Euro 2020 is a “fresh start” for everyone.
The Republic open their qualifying campaign against Group D minnows Gibraltar this evening before hosting Georgia in Dublin on Tuesday night.
Coleman, who wins his 50th cap on the British overseas territory, has his eyes fixed straight ahead. Martin O’Neill’s five-year reign came to a calamitous end last November, after the side failed to score in their last four games and delivered a string of tepid performances.
Coleman, like every Irish supporter, is looking for a dramatic change in fortunes starting tonight.
Despite the truncated time to prepare for Ireland’s upcoming double-header, Coleman says the vibes have been good in camp.
“Any time a new manager comes in and there have been a few new faces coming in as well, you’re so eager to impress,” said the Everton defender.
“I think the first few days were so hectic, lads were trying desperately to impress which is a good sign. The positivity around the place has been great. It’s massively important we win the game because it keeps that positivity high.”
The Donegal native added: “The last campaign is gone now. It’s a fresh campaign. We’re looking forward to it now and winning games is what we all want to do. We were at the Euros before, and to qualify for any major tournament is massive and that starts tomorrow night. Whether we have 10 per cent possession or 75 per cent possession I just want to win a football game.
“The lads know the last year wasn’t good enough, but for the new lads coming in, you don’t want to be tying them down with that baggage. You just want them to come in and be excited about being called up for their country. It’s a fresh start for us all.
“An hour before kick-off tomorrow I’d like to think all the lads will realise how big these games are and how important it is.”
Coleman was the only confirmed starter by manager Mick McCarthy at yesterday’s press conference but it is almost certain Wolves defender Matt Doherty will play in front of him in a new-look right side in the Victoria Stadium tonight.
Reflecting on his first week with the new management team, Coleman acknowledged there were a few teething problems that were quickly ironed out.
“The first day the manager, for a period of training, let us do what we were doing before he would step in,” he explained.
“[But] We weren’t long getting to grips with what they wanted. I think the second day in training it was massively improved from the first day and the things he wanted from certain players. So the few days we’ve been in has been plenty and the lads have learned quite quickly what’s needed from them.”
Coleman played down the significance of the plastic pitch at the Victoria Stadium – passed by Uefa officials on Thursday night – and the stormy weather forecast for kick-off.
He also dismissed the importance of clocking up a half century of caps against Gibraltar. Now in his eighth year as a senior international, Coleman didn’t envisage playing so many times for his country.
“No, probably not. Like at club level, when you play your first game you just want to play your second game. Obviously with it being my 50th cap it’s great, but whether it’s my first, my 20th, or 50th they all feel the same. I’m massively proud to play for my country. It’s a great milestone but it’s like every other game for me.”