Saturday 22 October 2016

Injury crisis Delaney's only hope of Euro call

Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney
Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney

Martin O'Neill promises he will use next month's friendly internationals to give fringe players a chance to play their way into his squad for Euro 2016.

But while the Republic boss insists that the door is not closed to anyone, a return to the Irish fold for the in-form Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney is unlikely, going on the manager's comments on TV3 last night.

O'Neill is in Ireland for a series of engagements for the rest of this week but first up was a stint as analyst alongside Brian Kerr and Graeme Souness for last night's Champions League action.

He said that the friendies with Switzerland and Slovakia are an opportunity, but a return to the fold for Delaney - who effectively retired from international football last year - is not likely seeing as O'Neill hardly offered the 34-year-old an olive branch. "It's an interesting one with Damien," O'Neill (pictured right) said.

"The summer before last, we had a collection of players, we had a trip to America, Damien played in the match before that, against Turkey. But he felt he was never going to be first choice at the time and he declined to go to America, and that didn't augur too well.

"He said he would make himself available, if he had a decent chance of getting into the squad or into the team but I wasn't in a position to make those decisions, I couldn't guarantee anyone a place in the side and we went our separate ways at that time.

"Don't get me wrong, Damien's had an excellent season at Crystal Palace. He's on the wrong side of 30, he hasn't played that many competitive games for the Republic of Ireland throughout his career, but the way we are with centre halves, if we get a few more injuries, I couldn't rule out anything, particularly if players have an interest in playing," added O'Neill, promising a stage to fringe players next month.

"There's a fight for a few position. We have a couple of games coming up, against Slovakia and Switzerland, and there might be a bit of experimentation there too.

"One of two players who have been on the periphery of events, who might have felt they'd have a bit more of a chance, so it's an opportunity for players. But essentially the group who got us there will be hard to shift as well, it will be a mixture," said the Ireland boss.

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