sport

O'Neill sets Irish standards

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has told his squad he expects total commitment as they prepare for the European Championship qualifiers.

Ireland will take on Turkey and World Cup bound Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal over the next three weeks, with one eye very firmly on the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in September.

O'Neill is making no apologies for choosing testing opponents at the end of a long campaign for most of his men, and while there might be some experimentation, he is still looking to head into the qualifiers on a high.

"Regardless of whether you are playing a friendly match or not, you want to win the games. The games that we have chosen are particularly difficult," O'Neill said.

"I wasn't choosing the matches to try to improve the co-efficient for ourselves and things like that. They couldn't come any more difficult.

"But for me, you obviously still want to win it. There will be a bit of experimentation too, but overall they will be competitive and we would like to try to do well in them.

"You wouldn't want to be going into September on the back of a very poor run."

The get-together will give O'Neill his longest spell yet with his players, and he has been delighted with the intensity produced in their first training session at Malahide.

"For me, it's terrific in the sense that I have the players for this length of time," said O'Neill.

"Of course, it's a lengthy period for the players, but they are very, very keen. They want to do it and the games that we have are very, very strong too.

"I don't think it will be anything to do with the type of friendly match you might have considered it beforehand, considering some of these sides that we are playing will be going straight into the World Cup.

"Overall, I'm very, very pleased I have got this chance now to work with the players, and while I don't want to be driving them mad with three training sessions per day, especially after a long, hard time - I want it to be enjoyable, but I want us to do some work as well."