Monday 24 October 2016

Wilson out as O'Neill goes to work

Build-up under way but bad news to kick-off preparations

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

It didn't take long. Just a few hours into the start of Ireland's Euro 2016 build-up and already Martin O'Neill has a casualty.

Marc Wilson's removal from the stage is a blow for those who like his versatility and ease on the ball but oddly enough, it eases the burden of selection which O'Neill must face in the coming week.

Wilson covered left-back and midfield at a pinch and even if O'Neill told us yesterday that he had always considered him as a centre-back, his other strings made him a near certainty for the squad if he was fit.

But he has been borderline for this tournament from a long way out and now that his absence has been confirmed, O'Neill's options have clarified.

The big winner is likely to be Shane Duffy but Cyrus Christie was also name-checked by O'Neill as a significant piece in the jigsaw if circumstances leave Ireland short at left-full.

"Marc is gone. It's a pity," said O'Neill. "He had the setback a few weeks ago and came back but is still feeling pain in his knee kicking the ball.


"Added to the length of time he's been out so it's a no go. It's disappointing for him naturally as he's been a big part of the squad. Every day he wasn't training it was another day gone past."

Asked whether Wilson's no show will mean a problem in terms of cover for the left-full slot, O'Neill dropped a broad hint that Christie will make the cut.

"It wouldn't be beyond a possibility for Seamus Coleman to move over to that position to cover those areas and if that is the case, Cyrus could play right back. If Ward and Brady were to get injured, you would have to consider that as unlucky but it can happen.

"I hadn't really considered Wilson at left-back. He had played at left back and it was good that he could play in two positions but I would have been looking at him more, maybe, as centre-back, which is where he has played most for me.

"I have four (centre-backs) at this minute and I have Paul McShane and Alex Pearce on standby. Things can happen between now and Tuesday night.

"I told them to think about that. Obviously they are disappointed but I have to narrow the squad down at some stage or another," added the Ireland boss.

"I have to say that young Duffy has come to the fore and done really fine and has a chance over the coming days to try and stake a claim.

"He got the game there in the end of March and I thought he did really fine. I don't want to put everything into one game he has played but that's fine and he has played all season as well.

"As is said, I don't want to heap an awful lot of expectation on him but I also think, as he displayed against Switzerland, he can be a threat in the opposition box too," said O'Neill.

O'Neill is conscious of the fact that the week ahead will be very important for marginal calls like Harry Arter, David McGoldrick and Stephen Quinn.

"If it means that there is pressure on certain players to do well, if it is coming down to this late hour, then they just have to live with that pressure.

"It might not be ideal but if you have not been involved with the team for quite some time and are still trying to prove a point, the best place to prove it is on the field."

No surprise that O'Neill has already stuck as asterisk beside his previous intention to name his final 23 on Saturday morning after the game against Holland.

It was always more likely that he would leave it until the last minute and he has now pushed his decision out to the May 31 UEFA deadline on Tuesday week, the night of the final warm-up against Belarus.

"I would say that," he said. "Initially I thought we could do it Saturday morning."

"But if it does come down to it that for players who still have a chance of making it does depend on what happens (against Belarus) , I seriously don't have a problem telling somebody at quarter to eleven (they are not going).

"If in the evening time it's 'sorry, it just didn't work out', I think the players would be prepared for that.

"If I was a player at this minute, I would want to take that chance of being told at 10.45 that I was not goi ng to make it after what I had done on the field of play."

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