Saturday 18 November 2017

Determined O'Neil is sticking to his guns on Hoolahan

Wes Hoolahan
Wes Hoolahan

Martin O'Neill will not be shifted from his belief that Wes Hoolahan struggles to deal with two international games in quick succession and has already cast doubt on the Norwich playmaker's ability to start in both legs of the Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On the plus side, the Ireland boss revealed that Shay Given has declared himself fit again and that Shane Long is making good progress in his race to be ready for Zenica, while Ciaran Clark lined up for Aston Villa last night to ease defensive worries.

O'Neill reiterated that it was Hoolahan who came to him before Poland and told him he wasn't fit to start.

But it was his repeated assertion that Hoolahan's legs are suspect which will reignite the debate around his team selection.

"I would not force a player who is reluctant to play in a game, I've never done that. I've never forced someone who says listen I'm not up to it."

"I work on the assumption, regardless of what age they are, that they will make themselves available for both games," he said.

"They do come in quick succession, Wes wouldn't be the only one you would have a bit of concern of being able to do the two games. He's not 19," he added. "I thought one or two were leg weary in Poland after the intensity of the German game and the quick turnaround."

Aston Villa centre-half Clark, who was due to play in last Saturday's defeat against Swansea but didn't even make the match-day squad, started against Southampton last night. With O'Shea sidelined for the first leg through suspension, and a doubt for the second leg because of injury, Clark's fitness will be vital.

O'Neill has scheduled a meeting with Wales manager Chris Coleman to pick his brain about Bosnia. He added: "It would be nice to see what his thoughts were on Bosnia in terms of the change of attitude from the first game in which they played to the one that Bosnia beat them in and Bosnia needed to win."

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