Martin O'Neill: Republic of Ireland boss says France game was 'tough' night

Republic of Ireland substitute Harry Arter slips as he attempts to challenge France midfielder Steven N'Zonzi
Torrential rain fell during much of the match in Paris

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill admitted Monday's 2-0 defeat by France had been a "really tough game" after his side were outclassed in Paris.

Goals late in the first half by Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir secured France's win with Irish keeper Colin Doyle badly at fault for the second.

Bradford City's Doyle, 32, regrouped with a fine second-half save and was praised afterwards by O'Neill.

"I thought Doyle showed a bit of mettle and character," he said.

After Giroud stabbed in the opening France goal on 40 minutes, Doyle could only help Fekir's shot into the net with a howler reminiscent of Pat Bonner's mistake which allowed Dutchman Wim Jonk to score in the last-16 game at the 1994 World Cup finals.

The former Birmingham and Blackpool keeper responded to beat away another Giroud effort early in the second half as the Irish kept the scoreline to respectable proportions as torrential rain fell at the Stade de France.

Burke debut a 'boost for League of Ireland'

Graham Burke (centre) was introduced for Callum O'Dowda after 70 minutes in Paris
Graham Burke (centre) became the first League of Ireland player to earn a Republic cap since 2007

Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke became the first League of Ireland player to earn a Republic cap since 2007, when he was introduced for Callum O'Dowda on 70 minutes.

Blackburn Rovers defender Derrick Williams was handed a debut as he started at left-back and performed well before being withdrawn in the second half, while Millwall's Shaun Williams was also introduced for his first cap in second half.

"If you think a young League of Ireland player comes on in the game, it's big experience for him and Derrick Williams," O'Neill added.

"Naturally, he (Burke) was delighted to get a call to come on. It was great news for him, his club and maybe a boost for the League of Ireland too."

France boss Didier Deschamps left N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann out of his starting line-up but the home side still totally dominated the contest.

O'Neill believes the French deserve to be considered as genuine World Cup contenders in Russia, where they will face Australia, Denmark and Peru in Group C.

"They are very strong and individually they have got a lot of talent," he said. "They are one of the favourites for the World Cup.

"We were naturally second best against a world-class team. That was to be expected, but I'm pleased we've taken this fixture on."

The Republic play another friendly on Saturday evening when they face the USA in Dublin.