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Wednesday 18 October 2017

'There are decisions to be made' - Martin O'Neill still to settle on line-up for Poland

O'Neill still to decide on starting line-up

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

MARTIN O’Neill has admitted that he has “big decisions” to make before he sits down to pick the team he hopes will take three points from Poland and keep Ireland’s Euro 2016 hopes alive.

Top of the pile will be the call he makes on the goalkeeping slot currently occupied by David Forde. For the first time since he took the Ireland job, O’Neill has real alternatives in a re-energised if still largely idle Shay Given and Kieren Westwood.

“I think there is a number of decisions to make and we have a good week ahead of us and we’ll see how things develop,” said O’Neill.

Given’s eye-catching performances for Aston Villa during their FA Cup run have given O’Neill plenty of food for thought despite very limited exposure to competitive football.

“When I brought Shay in in the first place, he didn’t have that much match time and he’s played a few games since. But he had a run when he went on loan to Middlesbrough. That was before I brought him in,” he added.

O’Neill revealed that it was Given’s wish to end his career in a better way than the humiliated retreat from Euro 2012 which was the key motivation in his return to international football.

“The reason he came in was he was keen. He didn’t want it to end the way it happened out in Poland. He didn’t want to end his international career like that. And the games he has played for us he has done exceptionally well,” he said.

“In the games he has played for Aston Villa he has done exceptionally well so it’s really good to have him around.”

O’Neill will monitor Robbie Brady’s progress through the week very carefully and appears to have something in mind for the Hull City winger once he can prove he is fully fit.,

“For those lads that didn’t play at the weekend like Robbie Brady, Stephen Quinn, James McClean, a few like that, they’ve participated in something for the last half hour that was pretty good,” O’Neill said.

“I’m pretty pleased Robbie is here. I’ve been in touch with him during the last few weeks. He always felt he was going to be okay. Then Steve Bruce mentioned that he didn’t think he had a chance.

“Obviously he has improved again for him to be on the bench v Chelsea). He hasn’t played for a little while but he’s pretty fit and he went brilliantly there in training.”

FAI/SWAI Player of the Year award nominee Jon Walters was a late arrival and should be fit to play despite the fractured cheekbone he sustained last week.

“Jon is coming in and he’s pretty upbeat. He’s got a mask and played for the last few minutes in the Stoke game. He did well to put himself forward for the game he has a week. I think he is feeling fine,” he said.

O’Neill is trying to put in place as close to a club environment as he can in the coming days.

“For players who have played a lot of games at this time of the year, sometimes rest is more important but by the same token we have to do some work, particularly in set pieces and go through those,” he said. “For some of those players who haven’t played as much. they would like to do a little bit more.”

“It’s balancing it all out and hopefully by the end of the week we will have got the balance right.”

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