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How Martin O'Neill Has Changed The Mood Since 2012

How Martin O'Neill Has Changed The Mood Since 2012
By Conor Neville
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On today's Euros Racket, Mick and Conor give their Takeaway with Four Star Pizza on Northern Ireland's brilliant win over. After the Guardian proclaimed them the worst team in the tournament just a couple of days previously, the North proved emphatically that was not true.

Also today, we look ahead with some postivity to Ireland's crucial second game against Belgium in Bordeaux tomorrow.

Four years ago, an air of suffocating joylessness hung around the Irish base in Sopot. Getting walloped in the opener against Croatia didn't help the mood. But perhaps their manager back then, schooled in the grim Italian culture of 'ritiri', wasn't attuned to his players needs.

Listen to Miguel Delaney and Nathan Murphy talking about the Irish camp and the Irish prospects tomorrow on the Euros Racket:

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This time around, there is a palpable air of buoyancy and contentment around the Irish camp. Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick were in grinning, smiling mode in their press conference this week.

According to one of our Ladbrokes Prophets for Profit, Miguel Delaney, this owes a lot of O'Neill's feel for what the players want and need.

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 Shane Long was speaking about it, and he was quite reluctant to criticise Trapattoni in that way, but from the way he was talking, O'Neill seems to have judged the balance right, in terms of when to give them time off, how hard to work them. And it does just seem like quite a contented group.

We were talking to Seamus Coleman last week about the - I don't want to use the word banter - but the craic derived from the intra-squad pool competition, I think him and Shane Duffy were winning the doubles. But it does just seem like a decent group and there's no issues coming out of it.

Elsewhere, the consensus from our Ladbrokes Prophets for Profit this week was that Ireland have a great chance of claiming a positive result in Bordeaux.

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A combination of the palpably buoyant atmosphere around the Ireland squad and the sense of frustration and dissension emanating from the Belgian camp has both Miguel Delaney and Nathan Murphy sensing that a glorious draw is on the cards.

Nathan Murphy, who fancied the Belgians for the tournament at the outset, now believes things look promising for Ireland to claim a draw tomorrow.

I'm certainly more optimistic than I was before the start of the tournament. The Belgian press conference coming up now. Eden Hazard, I'm sure, is going to be asked a lot of questions about the infighting in the Belgian camp, Courtois saying his manager is a joke, Eden Hazard described as a spoilt child by Roy Keane a couple of months ago, that might be brought up. These guys, are they mentally ready for it? I don't think so.

Miguel Delaney is still of the view that we might miss out on qualification, purely on the grounds that it's highly probable that we will need a win to progress. But he reckons that Ireland will possibly manage a draw tomorrow.

Actually, I think there's a decent chance we could really cause Belgium some problems tomorrow, especially with the tension in Wilmots' press conferences, with the issues they've had, it has potentially grow into one of those games where something seismic could happen. And I've heard as well that some of the players are bolstered with what has happened with Northern Ireland and Wales, who pulled off wins against Slovakia and Wales - notionally better sides. So I wouldn't completely rule out a victory against Belgium but if I was ultimately going to put money on it, I'd still feel that we're probably going to end up with two or three draws and we might just miss out.

With Jonathan Walters - patently not 100% last Monday - definitively ruled out for tomorrow, Delaney's hunch is that O'Neill to plump for James McClean as the replacement, though he cautions that speculating on O'Neill's team selections is a precarious enough business.

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This is where it's always interesting with O'Neill, he does tend to throw in wildcards - although he arguably didn't for the Sweden game, the surprise was that there was no surprise - so you would expect James McClean, he's just that bit more defensive, he's a winger who steams into tackles, he will life difficult - and painful - for the Belgian players. But with O'Neill, you never know in that sense, he might see the opportunity to do something different.

Read more: After That Italian Goal, Here's Exactly What Needs To Happen For Ireland To Progress

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