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Martin O’Neill lightens the mood before Republic of Ireland’s tightrope walk | Paul Doyle

Martin O’Neill’s relaxed approach helps defuse play-off tension as Ireland seek to book a place at the World Cup by beating Denmark in Dublin

Roy Keane said last week the key to Martin O’Neill’s celebrated motivational acumen boils down to a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. So it was intriguing, on the eve of Tuesday’s second leg of the tautly wound World Cup play?off between the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, to hear O’Neill tease his captain, David Meyler, about missing penalties in training.

There is a real possibility of the match here ending in the same 0-0 scoreline as the first leg on Saturday and, therefore, of a penalty shootout being required. That would determine who advances to the World Cup finals, and who is left to survey the rubble of a brutally ended 14-month qualification campaign. When asked about that scenario, Meyler declared his confidence he would score from the spot if called on.

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