Festive stress for O'Neill

21 December 2016 13:32:03 EST

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill admits the hectic festive football programme is a source of added stress for international managers.

O'Neill says he will keep track on all his key men over the coming days, with one eye already on a crucial World Cup 2018 qualifier against Wales in Dublin in March.

The Ireland manager admits that one or two untimely injuries could easily derail what has been a fine start by his side to the qualification campaign for Russia.

That's the problem with international football – you're sitting and you're sweating.

Martin O'Neill

Ireland top Group D with ten points from four games. After a draw in Serbia, they've beaten Georgia at home and Moldova and Austria away to lead the way by two points from Serbia.

Chris Coleman's Wales meanwhile have only one win from four games to date, ensuring a frustrating start after their run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016.

The Aviva Stadium clash between Ireland and Wales could have huge implications and O'Neill wants to have all his men at his disposal.

"You're thinking some player could go down injured," he told eir Sport. "Seamus Coleman picked up an injury for Everton and your heart is in your mouth.

"Wales have a certain number of players in their team which would be big losses, Gareth Bale (who is currently out with an ankle injury) being one of them.

"We have a similar situation. That's the problem with international football – you're sitting and you're sweating. But so far we've been up to the task and 2017 is a big year."

By the time Russia comes around, it will have been 16 years since Ireland's previous World Cup appearance in Japan and South Korea and O'Neill believes another 12 points from their remaining six games would probably be enough to progress to the 2018 Finals.

He added: "If you're holding me to it, I'd say 22 points. Easy isn't it!"

Ireland are 13/8 to win Group D, with Serbia currently 13/8 and Wales 11/4 after their stuttering start.

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