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

Ireland's manager Martin O'Neill (C) and assistent manager Roy Keane attend a training session at the Telia Parken Stadion in Copenhagen on November 10, 2017, the day before the World Cup...

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.

Republic of Ireland hold nerve to take Denmark back to Dublin level

Republic of Ireland fans with a flag during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg between Denmark and Republic of Ireland at Telia Parken on November 11, 2017 in Copenhagen,...

Easy to read, difficult to beat. The Denmark manager, Age Hareide, took no satisfaction from the fact that his pre-match assessment of this Republic of Ireland team turned out to be prophetic. Martin O’Neill, meanwhile, is happy that Ireland’s World Cup fate will be determined in Dublin, a goalless draw ensuring the suspense in this play-off will carry over into Tuesday’s second leg.

Republic of Ireland out to change Denmark’s mood in World Cup play-off

Irlands's national football team manager Martin O'Neill attends a press conference at the Telia Parken Stadion in Copenhagen on November 10, 2017, the day before the World Cup...

The United Nations has classed Denmark as the happiest country in the world for three of the past five years, with Gallup research reckoning that the average Dane experiences 80 positive emotions per day. The factors assessed include affluence, stability, health, education and personal fulfilment. Football success does not come into it, apparently.