Monday 23 October 2017

O'Neill making plans for the future

Ireland manager ponders life after France but still no sign of talks about a new deal

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
St Paul’s CBS student Chris Forrester, who has been called up to the Republic of Ireland senior team, pictured at The Herald School Sports Awards at Croke Park back in 2008, with his uncle Joe Towell and mum Colette (Colin O'Riordan)

Martin O'Neill has started planning for life after Euro 2016 despite the fact that he has yet to agree a deal with the FAI beyond the finals in France.

O'Neill once again batted away questions about a new deal by jokingly suggesting that he would meet with the FAI "in the next two years" but if he is beginning to plan for the Russia 2018 opener against Serbia, it would seem reasonable to assume that he will sign one eventually.

"I should hope so at some stage or another, or I could continue on," he laughed.

Comparisons with the current political morass provided O'Neill with an opportunity for a chuckle when the suggestion was made that he could follow Enda Kenny's lead.

"Absolutely. You can resign and stay on! Very good," he laughed before dealing with the serious point.

"It is important for some of these younger lads. I have to have a look at it anyway, definitely," he said.

Naming a 40-man squad for friendlies against Switzerland (March 25) and Slovakia (March 29), O'Neill has included uncapped Chris Forrester, Matt Doherty and Jonathon Hayes and will has decided to dip into Noel King's Under-21s as well.

With an eye on the opening blows of the next World Cup qualifying campaign, O'Neill has spoken with King and has two or three of the best in mind for immersion in a senior international preparation week.

"I would like to bring down some of the Under-21s, Jack Byrne and Alan Browne in particular. I would like them to join the squad for a couple of days.

"Noel King doesn't have a problem with that, although I'm very conscious of the fact he has a qualification game on the Thursday," said the Ireland boss.

"Overall, as Noel says, we're trying to get players through to senior level. Just for those boys to be around the squad for a day or two because we have, after the Euros, not long before we're in playing World Cup matches," he said.

"And we are, I think going to lose one or two of the players. It might be a swansong for one or two of the senior players so I think it would be important for these (young) players to be around and not stepping into a World Cup venue when they've had no experience.

"I think it will help their confidence as well. If someone thinks they're in or around senior players, it can only be a good thing even if it's only for one or two days."

O'Neill is still debating the finer points of his final 23 and as it stands, the players he wants to see make a big statement in the two Aviva friendly games are Harry Arter, Kevin Doyle and Aiden McGeady.

With just one game against Holland after the Easter double-header, these games now look like make or break opportunities for fringe players trying to elbow their way into O'Neill's final squad.

"Because I've got the two games I will be looking at around 30 players or so and there's certainly one or two that I would want some involvement in the pitch. The likes of Harry Arter if he's fit, I would like that and one or two others."

Is he worried that McGeady's switch to Sheffield Wednesday is running less than smoothly?

"No, I'm not too concerned at this minute. He is coming to terms with moving to the new club," said O'Neill.

"I know that he has started some games, not finished the matches and was taken off there at half-time in a game but I am more pleased that he is out at least playing competitive football than staying there and not playing at all.

"At least he is getting time on the field and when he is properly fit, as I think you know, he can do something. Aiden is one of those who has to be fit.

"In an ideal world I would love for these two games here to have most of the players that have been part of the squad for a while, haven't played that much and have this attempt to play themselves into contention."

Those who can't turn up for this game because of injury, like Shay Given and David McGoldrick, won't be out of the running entirely although O'Neill does concede that they are facing an uphill struggle.

"It would be more difficult, not impossible, but more difficult (to make the squad)," he said.

"Shay is back training and making progress. McGoldrick is another player I like a lot and with these games coming up, had it been in three weeks' time he would have made it.

"The news coming through is that he is doing fine again, back in training again," said O'Neill.

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