Defenders’ lack of playing time concerns O’Neill

Many of the players named in provisional 37-man squad aren’t starting for their clubs

Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane has been named in martin O’Neill’s provisional 37-man squad for next month’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia. Photograph: PA

Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane has been named in martin O’Neill’s provisional 37-man squad for next month’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia. Photograph: PA

 

As he named a hugely extended squad for next month’s European Championship qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia, Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill admitted that the way the new season has started for some of his goalkeepers and established defenders is causing him some concern.

Shay Given is back on the sidelines since his move to Stoke City and looks set to stay there for the moment while neither John O’Shea nor Given’s club-mate Marc Wilson have featured yet in a first team game.

“I would be absolutely concerned and so would the players,” said O’Neill as he named an initial squad this afternoon of 37 players, “Marc’s had a disjointed start to the season. He picked up an injury before the start of the season and took a while to get over it but he’s raring to go now. John is fit but will be disappointed not to be playing but it’s good to see Ciaran Clark back and playing for Aston Villa again.”

As for the goalkeepers, he said; “I think the situation is fairly apparent. Shay has left Aston Villa and isn’t in the first team while David’s dropped down to league One but Keiren Westwood is playing for Sheffield Wednesday. I watched him at the weekend and he picked up an injury that’s going to keep him out for a week or two. I don’t think it will affect our games but I can’t be absolutely sure about that.

Darren Randolph did at least get some games in the Europa League qualifying rounds and if West Ham’s goalkeeper is going to miss a game or two now (through suspension) then hopefully he’ll get back in again but overall, it’s a situation that we’ll have to look at. You’d like the goalkeeper that you’ll be relying on to have had some first team opportunities by the time that the games come around.”

O’Neill met with Jack Grealish, his father and agent 10 days ago and says he feels the meeting went well although there is still no indication from the young Aston Villa midfielder as to where his long term international allegiances might lie.

“The situation with Jack is that I had a conversation with him and his father and I thought it was very, very fruitful. I think he’s going to make a decision very soon on his future. It’s a big decision for him. Obviously he’d play more football for us but it’s a decision that he can’t take lightly. It’s a decision that affects the rest of his football career.”

He was rather less enthusiastic about Stephen Ireland whose second half performance for Stoke City at the weekend provided a reminder of what the Corkman is capable of on his day. O’Neill said that he had met with Ireland’s agent some time back and: “I said to him that if Stephen ever fancies coming back then you should give me a call. He didn’t play in the first game of the season, he came on against Spurs and made a a positive impression but it’s just two games into the new season.”

Greg Cunningham returns to the Ireland squad after a long absence as O’Neill, who says reports on the left back have been “very good,” looks for alternatives for the position given that Stephen Ward is not playing at Burnley. Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane is also included although it remains to be seen whether either will actually be involved when the games come around.

Ireland Squad: David Forde (Millwall), Shay Given (Stoke), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Darren Randolph ( West Ham), Rob Elliot (Newcastle), Richard Keogh (Derby), Marc Wilson (Stoke), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie (Derby), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Alex Pearce (Derby), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Paul McShane (Reading), James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Derby), Stephen Ward (Burnley), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Eunan O’Kane (Bournemouth), Aiden McGeady (Everton), James McClean (West Brom), Alan Judge (Brentford), Robbie Brady (Norwich), Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff), Stephen Quinn (Reading), David Meyler (Hull), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich), Jon Walters (Stoke), Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Anthony Stokes (Celtic), David McGoldrick (Ipswich), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen), Simon Cox (Reading).

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