Saturday 18 November 2017

'I'll listen to LOI bosses': O'Neill

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill : SPORTSFILE
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill : SPORTSFILE

Martin O'Neill says he's happy to listen if League of Ireland managers want to recommend players to him.

But while the Republic's manager says he still has an open door policy when it comes to his squad for Euro 2016, he admits it's highly unlikely that LOI old boys like Richie Towell and Christopher Forrester will make the cut in June.

O'Neill returned from a winter holiday on Monday and faces a series of engagements across Ireland this week. The Derry native showed up at the launch of the new SSE Airtricity League season at Lansdowne Road stadium yesterday, O'Neill joking that the ongoing redevelopment work at the Brandywell reminded him of how as a Derry City-supporting kid he would sneak "under a piece of wire to get into the games".

So domestic bosses such as Stephen Kenny, Liam Buckley and Keith Long had at least an opportunity to whisper into the ear of the Ireland boss if they had a strong feeling about any of their players.

Former LOI players such as Shane Long, Seamus Coleman, Wes Hoolahan, Daryl Murphy, Stephen Ward, Stephen Quinn, David Forde, David Meyler and Kevin Doyle are either already guaranteed places in the Euro 2016 squad or are in contention.

No one is making a case for any current LOI players for Euro 2016 but, in time, the likes of Brandon Miele, Sean Hoare, Sean Gannon and Lee Desmond could come into the frame, though they will have to follow that well-worn path to England to have a chance.

As established UK-based players such as Anthony Pilkington, Anthony Stokes and Shane Duffy (Blackburn) have only the slimmest of hopes of getting into that Euro 2016 squad, home-based players currently have no hope but O'Neill says he's happy to follow up any recommendations.

"Well I think in the last couple of years I've been really rather selfish," says O'Neill.

"My main objective was to try and qualify for Euros so rather selfishly I thought that most of the players that I would be choosing would be probably playing in England and therefore I'd gone to some games here, but not as many as I probably should be attending.

"I tended to leave that to, I think the best judges are the managers here and I'd be the first one to say, just leave my phone number and say, 'listen we've a couple of young boys here and I think one of them has got a chance'.

"Now, we can all be wrong - I arrive and I don't think as much of them but it shouldn't stop people. I've recommended players to other managers who have turned out to be useless so I wouldn't worry too much about that," he joked.

While Forrester has done well with League One side Peterborough, times are hard for Towell at Brighton, where the ex-Dundalk man has not even made the bench in recent weeks, and O'Neill is realistic on their Euro hopes.

"It's never too late, although I did say to young Towell a few months ago, when he was making the move over, if he thinks I am going to travel on down to Brighton to watch him play in the reserves, he has another thing coming, let him break into the team, let him get there and be part of it, it's been tough so far but he can definitely push on.

"For Forrester and players like that, is it too late? It's getting close, there are certainly a number of players who have been part of proceedings who will definitely be on the team sheet, there's no question about that, or in the 23, but there are other places up for grabs and it's never too late.

"I have a couple of games coming up now and I will use a bit of experimentation in these, some players who have been on the periphery of the scene, little (Alan) Judge at Brentford for instance, some other players of that ilk who have been in the squads but not participated that much.

"It's never too late but there are a number of players who, injury apart, will go and that will be it."

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