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O'Neill finds his rhythm

BY any standard set by managers of Ireland in the past, Martin O'Neill is delivering. The selection of Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick is just more evidence that he is on the case and on top of all elements of the job.

After a honeymoon period in which he answered more questions about Roy Keane than he did about Ireland, O'Neill has settled into a nice rhythm now, helped in every way by results.

There is less hullabaloo around the place and maybe for the first time since he took the job, a pitch-side update was all about footballers, knocks, bruises and the next game.

No books, no job offers and nothing of an extraneous nature to irritate him. Well, maybe one thing. Jack Grealish . . . will he, won't he?

The word has been doing the rounds for a while now that the choreography was in place to bring Grealish in for next Tuesday's friendly against the USA at the Aviva.

It looks like Christie, at least, will be given a run and why not? O'Neill knows all he needs to know about the players he has in his squad and the opportunity to blood new talent is there.

Again, another sign that O'Neill is approaching the task he has been set at all levels and to date anyway, with excellent results.

But what about young Jack? Any plans to bring him in?

"The answer is no," said O'Neill and it was no with a capital N.

Given the premise that O'Neill is doing his job well, we can only assume that any hesitancy on his part in engaging with Grealish is rooted in his publicly stated belief that the lad should show he wants it by picking up the phone or sending the right message and that so far, he has not.


All the elements seemed to be in place a few weeks back but in between, we have had Grealish's decision to rule himself unavailable for selection for Noel King's Under 21 side and much noise from various Englishmen about how they would love to turn him to the dark side.

Only time will resolve this issue but it must be said, it is not looking as positive as it was just a few weeks ago and the sense is there that Grealish is now withdrawing from Ireland.

Not so Christie and McGoldrick, however, and O'Neill waxed lyrical about both men, going as far as to suggest that he would not be uncomfortable throwing either of them in at the deep end in Glasgow.

"I don't think I would be, to tell you the truth. I don't think I would," he said.

"I will have a look at it, I really will have a look at it. Seamus would be hard to displace at this minute. Cyrus is really decent and obviously he is delighted to be in the squad," he said.

"McGoldrick, I think, will be a really good acquisition for us during the course of time.

"He can play, he can genuinely play. Let's have a wee look at him. I don't think you will be disappointed.

"He can actually play up at centre forward and he can come off players and link in. That's really the main part of his game, he's very, very good at it. You will be pleasantly surprised over the course of the next year."

O'Neill was clearly delighted to have Glenn Whelan around the place after his rapid recovery from a fractured bone in his leg sustained in Germany.

"Well, he's pretty good. Again, he wants to come over and we have total permission from Stoke to do so.

"I think Stoke are happy because the training he is going to be doing for the next couple of days with us he would have been doing anyway with Stoke.

"From that viewpoint, they are fine. James wanted to come, Glenn wanted to come and that is always encouraging.

"The Stoke physiotherapist has spoken to Alan, the doctor. Glenn was doing well at one stage. I think he felt maybe around 10 days ago that the chances weren't great and then a couple of days later he was feeling much better.

"Stoke are happy in terms of the injury. It's just what he's capable of doing now and it would be more, I think, fitness. Remember he has hardly done a thing since the game against Germany.


"When you're coming out of an injury and you are trying to test it all the time, I think you just have to be slightly careful.

"That's the way he wants to play it and that's the way we are doing it. So we'll see how he is by the time we finish on Thursday."

O'Neill confirmed that Stephen Ward would be fit, despite the fact that he went to the gym with James McCarthy and didn't train.

"I'm pretty happy Stephen will be available. We'll play it very much day by day with that one, and James is very much the same case. It's only less than 48 hours since he had a strain and we'll see how he is."

Asked whether there was any issue over McCarthy's release, he played a straight bat: "I think he's played a lot of games, Everton are also involved heavily in the Europa League and I think it's one of those situations where you really would have to wait until the last minute.

"James has arrived here, James has come here, James wants to play if he's fit and that's very encouraging. He always did want to come and it's great to see him here because he's an important part of the team."