Ireland have been drawn with Germany once again in the Euro 2016 qualifiers – when Martin O’Neill will face another former Celtic boss in Scotland’s Gordon Strachan.
O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane were in Nice for the draw that pitted Ireland in Group D with the Germans, Scotland, Poland, Georgia and new boys Gibraltar.
Northern Ireland are up against Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands.
The Group D draw will not be welcomed by Irish fans who still have bitter memories of Germany’s 6-1 win against Giovanni Trapattoni’s team in Dublin in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
New Ireland boss O’Neill admitted: “Germany are the outstanding team in the group and we have had some difficult games against them in the recent past.
“I am sure there were other groups we’d prefer to be in and it is difficult but exciting nevertheless. Germany aside, it is a group where teams will take points off each and there is plenty to fight for.
“The third placed team will get into the play-offs but I want us to go positively into the group. Let’s go for it. There’s an excitement about the group, that’s exactly what it is.
“The utopia is to get this Ireland team to France. It would be great for the fans, for the players, for the country. We would very much love to get out of this group and come back here.
“It would be amazing for the whole country but there is a lot of fighting to be done between now and then.”
The Celtic cousins derby with Scotland will generate huge interest for the Irish and Scottish fans.
And it will see O’Neill up against his successor as Glasgow Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, now in charge of the Scots.
O’Neill added: “The localization will have a big bearing on it. They are two big games there and it will be great for the fans.”
Scotland boss Strachan laughed: “I walked into the room with Martin and Roy Keane and I’ve just seen them there now and we are still smiling.
“It is laughter now but we are competitive as well and we know when we play Ireland the gloves will be off.”
Euro 2016 qualifiers Group D – Germany, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar.