the News continues it’s countdown to Euro 2016 with an interview with former Pompey and Republic of Ireland striker David Connolly..
Former Pompey front man David Connolly believes Republic of Ireland need to be quick out of the blocks if they are to enjoy a successful Euro 2016 campaign.
The Irish were derided for their performances the last time they made it to a major championships – Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Back then Giovanni Trapattoni’s side disappointingly lost their opening game 3-1 to Croatia, before succumbing easily to Spain (4-0) and then Italy (2-0) to finish bottom of Group C and pointless.
Another difficult group lies in wait in France, with much-fancied Belgium, Sweden and the Italians again all lying in wait.
The Swedes represent Republic of Ireland’s first Group E opponents in Paris on Monday.
Connolly is adamant Martin O’Neill’s side will need to win it if they are to experience the knockout stages of the tournament.
‘They’ll have to have a good start, and then it will be a really good test,’ said Connolly, who made 41 appearances for the Irish.
‘The tournament has expanded and is not as difficult as it was previously.
‘But once you get into these games there are no easy fixtures.
‘They are all, tactically, really competent and there are no easy matches.
‘You sometimes get this in qualifying – some games are easily winnable – but in a competition format you can take nothing for granted.
‘The team have to start well and be tactically astute, which didn’t happen in the last Euros.
‘And, as always, Ireland have to be stronger as a team than maybe the sum of their individual parts.’
Connolly made 37 appearances for the Blues at the tail end of his career, scoring 12 goals.
He also has experience of playing in major championships, although will not look back at the 2002 World Cup with fondness after missing a penalty in a last-16 shootout with Spain.
His pain on that occasion was shared by an entire nation.
And Connolly hopes Irish fans have something to excite them as they make their way over to France in their thousands.
‘I’m really hoping they have a good tournament,’ he added.
‘I hope they do well. The longer they stay in it the better it is for the country.
‘The last one, obviously, ended quite early and there was massive disappointment for the fans who went over there.’
– MARK McMAHON