Saturday 18 November 2017

Martin O'Neill looks for fringe benefits as rookies Eunan O'Kane and Adam Rooney make the cut for squad

Robbie Brady
Robbie Brady

Martin O'Neill has opened the door to an international debut for rookies Eunan O'Kane and Adam Rooney after they managed to make the cut for the final Ireland squad for the Euro 2016 double-header against Gibraltar and Georgia.

The Irish players assembled in Dublin last night at their new base - they have swapped their long-established Portmarnock-Malahide home to begin training at FAI HQ in Abbotstown - as O'Neill trimmed down his original 37-man panel to a more manageable 28-strong squad.

As expected, players like Keiren Westwood, Greg Cunningham, Harry Arter and Daryl Murphy withdrew due to injury, but there was a boost for midfielder O'Kane and striker Rooney as they were included.

Both have been on standby before but were never in the squad proper but their recent form - two impressive Premier League starts for O'Kane with Bournemouth and four SPL goals for Aberdeen's Rooney have boosted their chances.

O'Kane, now 25, has been on the fringes for some time after he made the switch from Northern Ireland to the Republic's set-up in 2011 and O'Neill's scouts have been keeping tabs on the Derry-born player this season while O'Neill also saw O'Kane in the flesh when he played in a benefit game for ex-Derry City man Mark Farren earlier this summer.

There was limited Irish involvement in yesterday's programme across the water.

Wes Hoolahan started for Norwich City away to Southampton but he was taken off 32 minutes into the game, a tactical decision by boss Alex Neil in response to that red card for defender Steven Whitaker, though fellow Dubliner Robbie Brady lasted the 90 minutes for the Canaries.

Frustrating as that was for Hoolahan, at least he saw some action, unlike Shane Long, who was left on the bench for that game, a 3-0 win for the Saints.

Kevin Doyle has also started to stake a claim for a recall with some good form in the MLS for Colorado Rapids.

Doyle scored the winner for the Denver side against Sporting Kansas City at the weekend, his fourth goal for the club since his summer move from Wolves. Doyle's last international involvement was for the home win over Gibraltar last year but he could now get another chance.

IRELAND SQUAD v Gibraltlar/Georgia:

KEEPERS: Forde, Given, Randolph.

DEFENDERS: Coleman, Christie, O'Shea, Wilson, Keogh, Clark, Ward, Brady, Pearce, McShane

MIDFIELDERS: McCarthy, Mcgeady, Whelan, Hendrick, O'Kane, Hoolahan, Quinn, Meyler, McClean, Pilkington

FORWARDS: Walters, Long, Keane, Rooney, Doyle.

Euro 2016

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