Macdara Ferris reporting from Versailles
Irish central defender Ciaran Clark admitted it was a sleepless night for him after his own goal effectively gave Sweden a point in last Monday’s Euro 2016 clash at the Stade de France.
“Obviously it was disappointing for me personally,” said Ciaran Clark about his own goal in 71st minute that cancelled out Wes Hoolahan’s early second half strike for the Boys in Green. “It is never nice to be the one the ball comes off and goes in.
"I found it hard to sleep after thinking about it because it was going through my head,” admitted the 26-year-old. “When I woke up the next day, I pushed it to one side.
“All the lads said the same, there is nothing I could have done,” said Clark about the OG when he talked to the assembled Irish and Belgian media in Versailles on Thursday lunchtime.
“It is a natural reaction for a defender to try and stop the ball and defend the goal. There was a guy behind me. I tried to get it out of the way but unfortunately it went in.”
Richard Keogh, sitting alongside Clark, backed up his fellow defender who recognised that Sebastian Larsson was lurking to get on the end of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s centre. “Clarky was very unfortunate with the own goal. If he had left it, there was a Swedish guy behind him.”
The focus now switches to Saturday’s showdown with Belgium and Ireland travel to Bordeaux on Friday ahead of the Group E game.
“This group is ready,” said Keogh about the upcoming match. “We’ve worked so hard to get here. We want to do ourselves proud and do our country proud.”
For Ciaran Clark, he has put thoughts of the own goal behind him. “You have to focus on the next game and that’s what I’m doing now,” said the Aston Villa player. “You have to concentrate on training and recovery to prepare for the next game.”
Clarke, along with John O’Shea, will likely be given the task of shackling Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. The Everton forward has 15 international goals to his name and is a potent threat.
However, the Azzurri effectively deployed three at the back to keep Lukaku in check during Italy's win over Belgium. It is unlikely such a system will be used by Ireland according to assistant manager Roy Keane when he spoke at the press conference earlier (read Roy Keane’s thoughts on the Belgium game amongst other things here).
“He is a top individual player,” said Clark about Lukaku. “He has got power and pace and is a good finisher. They have a number of top players and we will be looking at them but we’ve got a number of top players that can cause them problems.”
Extratime.ie will be covering the game live from Bordeaux on Saturday with our reporter Dave Donnelly on hand to take you through the game.