Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane set to take training for first time
Anthony Pilkington to remain with Norwich until Thursday while his progress is monitored
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane with FAI Chief Executive John Delaney at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Maher/ Sportsfile
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane will take the Republic of Ireland squad for training for the first time this morning in Malahide, where they will get the opportunity to see close up what they will have to work with as they look to map out a route to the European Championships in France in the summer of 2016.
The players had their first real encounter with the management team in the team hotel last night but they will get a greater sense of how different things are going to be under the pair in this morning’s session.
The new manager says he has not yet decided whether he will take training on an ongoing basis when these two games are out of the way and says that call will influence who fills the remaining spots in his backroom team. For the moment he feels that working at close quarters with the squad members is the best way to prepare for his first two matches in charge.
Remain with club
With Robbie Brady and Ciarán Clark the only two players to have withdrawn from the squad so far, there were 24 due into Dublin yesterday but there may yet be casualties between now and Friday’s game against Latvia, with Keiren Westwood and Anthony Pilkington having missed and limped out of their respective club games at the weekend. Pilkington will remain with his club until Thursday while his progress is monitored.
O’Neill may be more concerned about the number of players who watched from the sidelines with the likes of Joey O’Brien, Seán St Ledger and Paul Green all having been overlooked by their various managers. Whether all will continue to feature remains to be seen.
O’Neill spoke with Noel King yesterday after the latter had named his under-21 squad for the forthcoming qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Montenegro and the pair are likely to have gone over the reasoning behind some of the his selections.
The 61-year-old will have been heartened by the most recent performances of Andy Reid, Shane Long, Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters at the weekend with all doing enough to suggest that they are heading into the Latvia game in a bit of form.
The extent of the effect, meanwhile, the new management team will have on the attendance at Friday’s game remains uncertain.
There have been predictions of a sell-out in some quarters but sales in the sections advertised on the ticketmaster website have been solid rather than spectacular since the tail-end of last week, with perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of the available seats appearing to have been shifted.
Sales should get another boost when Roy Keane does his first press conference of the new era after training tomorrow.
The event is likely to generate huge press interest again and will provide a first test of the Corkman’s ability to play the role of the loyal association employee and number two.
It remains to be seen if he can deal quite as cheerily with persistent questioning about “that man” John Delaney as O’Neill did with all the queries about his assistant on Saturday.