O'Dea: Culling of big names shows no one can be sure of his ticket to Poland
IT'S a case of new faces but also absent friends in the Ireland squad this week. And the fact that some players who have been Ireland regulars under Giovanni Trapattoni but did not make the cut this time is a stern warning to the rest of the panel that they have to deliver on a regular basis if they are to stay in the manager's plans.
Shane Duffy and James McClean are the new kids on the block, the uncapped players who are hoping to use tomorrow's game against the Czech Republic to earn a seat on the plane to Poland in June.
But players such as Andy Keogh, Paul McShane and Liam Lawrence, who between them have won 49 caps under Trapattoni, were dropped from the squad for this match and that shows players such as Darren O'Dea that the Ireland boss will be ruthless.
"I don't think any of us needed a wake-up call but, if one was needed, then this squad announcement was it, when you see the lads who didn't make it into the panel," O'Dea told the Herald.
"Paul McShane has been very good any time he's been called upon for Ireland and I'm sure he'll be gutted to be out of the squad as he's a great person to have around the squad, on top of what he contributes as a player.
"I'm sure he'll be working harder than ever to get back into the frame, but the fact that Paul's not in the squad shows you can't rest on your laurels.
"I have to do well in every training session and in every minute of every game I play if I am to stay in the squad.
"So if I get a chance tomorrow night, hopefully I can take it. At international level, you will never stop having players behind you or in front of you, so you need to keep performing.
"We have lads in the squad who have 100 caps, a couple more who are touching that mark, they are an example to the rest of us in terms of how you perform. We have good mix in the squad of senior players, middle-aged players and then the younger lads coming through, so it all bodes well for the country," added O'Dea, who won his 12th senior cap in the Euro 2012 qualifying win over Andorra last year.
"This is as much about getting the squad together and bedding in the ideas that the manager wants as the game itself. It's all about preparing for the finals in the summer and the Czechs are a good side to play against."
While the Dubliner enjoys his status as a member of the Irish squad, things are also looking up at club level.
O'Dea is enjoying his spell on loan from Celtic to Leeds as he admits that his time at Parkhead is over.
"I'm on loan until the end of the season but I won't be going back to Celtic. I'll only be going back to get away again. I have enjoyed playing every week at Leeds and we'll see what happens in the summer, but I have more important things to be worrying about. I have the Euros as my priority before I think about my long-term future at club level," added the former Home Farm man.
"Things have settled down a bit now after a tough few weeks at Leeds.
"Neil Redfearn came in and did really well. He's going to be a great manager and he could have been a good manager for us given the chance. But as players it was tough for us to settle when we knew he didn't have the job on a permanent basis.
"Neil Warnock has brought a bit of stability and he will bring his own ideas and the players are behind him."