John O’Shea may not start against Serbia

Martin O’Neill drops hint that he may keep his captain in reserve

John O’Shea takes part in the Republic of Ireland squad training session at Malahide this morning. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

John O’Shea takes part in the Republic of Ireland squad training session at Malahide this morning. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Glenn Whelan could be in line to lead the Republic of Ireland in tomorrow night’s friendly against Serbia after Martin O’Neill hinted this afternoon that he may not start with stand-in skipper John O’Shea.

With Robbie Keane allowed to stay in Los Angeles and prepare for the new season with LA Galaxy, O’Neill had handed the captain’s armband to O’Shea for the match at the Aviva Stadium.

But the Ireland manager suggested this afternoon that he might keep the Sunderland captain in reserve as he seeks to explore his options in defence ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

“I know what John can do,” he told reporters at a pre-match press conference “I’ll talk to him. We have a couple of players who I’ve a fair idea about and John would be one of those.

“One or two of the other players in the squad at the moment, I’d know less about. This could be an opportunity (to have a look at them.)”

Should O’Neill start without O’Shea, Whelan would be the most obvious candidate to assume leadership duties while Richard Keogh would likely come into the centre of the Irish defence alongside Marc Wilson.

The Derby County defender has not figured for Ireland since scoring on his second outing against Georgia last June but has already spoken of his desire to force his way into O’Neill’s plans.

“This is a new era for the senior team,” he said last week. “It is an exciting time and, hopefully, I can be a big part of it.

“I’ve just got to make sure I keep playing well for Derby, that is the main thing. It’s a really proud moment for me to be named in the squad.

“It’s nice to be back involved and is something I have been working hard towards.”

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