EXCLUSIVE: Republic of Ireland manager is interested observer at Ipswich Town’s draw with Blackpool

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the press conference at Carlton Hotel, Blanchardst

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the press conference at Carlton Hotel, Blanchardstown, Ireland. - Credit: PA WIRE

Martin O’Neill was an interested observer as Ipswich Town were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by struggling Blackpool, at Portman Road, on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland boss saw the Blues’ star striker and hopeful international David McGoldrick cut a frustrated figure - flashing a first-half header just wide of the goal – before hobbling off the pitch with a knee injury at the full-time whistle.

The Republic entertain Serbia in an international friendly on March 5, before hosting Turkey on May 25, as preparations for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign continues.

However, the 61-year-old, who watched from the stands, will have been left with more questions than answers as McGoldrick, who qualifies through his grandparents, along with 20-cap Paul Green, Stephen Hunt (39 caps), Daryl Murphy (eight caps) and former Ireland Under-21 star Jay Tabb suffered difficult afternoons.

After a bright start that saw McGoldrick’s header miss Matt Gilks’ left-hand post by inches, following a dangerous cross by another Republic hopeful, Luke Chambers, Murphy screwed a shot wide when closing in on goal.

The visitors, who have now won just once in 18 league and cup games, gradually grew in confidence, and returning goalkeeper Scott Loach – replacing Dean Gerken (cricked neck) – saved the day, denying Faris Haroun three times.

It all added up to a tough day at the office for Town, who are five points off the play-offs following Reading’s 3-1 win at QPR yesterday.

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“It’s the hardest thing to do, putting the ball in the net and that’s why clubs pay millions and give players millions to do that,” said manager Mick McCarthy, who also saw Luke Hyam and full debutant Green limp off before the end of the game.

“But David’s (McGoldrick) been our talisman this season so I will forgive him for that.”

He added: “He’s got a knock so we will have to see, while Luke Hyam just has a tight hamstring and we hope he hasn’t pulled it.

“I was delighted with Greeny, it’s just a shame we had to re-jig things (when Hyam went off).

“I was glad to get him and Sylvan (Ebanks-Blake) on the pitch and Sylvan will be involved (in the under-21’s game at home to Charlton) on Monday.”

Town go to league leaders Leicester on Saturday.

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