Martin O’Neill gives nothing away with Netherlands squad
Callum O’Dowda ‘will benefit from having the experience of being around the squad’
Martin O’Neill named a 35-man squad in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has included 21 year-old Callum O’Dowda in his preliminary 35 man squad for the European Championships. The Oxford United winger is the only surprise in a list that includes all of the mainstays of the campaign and several players who are currently working their way back to fitness after injuries.
Jon Walters, Shay Given, Jeff Hendrick, Marc Wilson, Harry Arter and David McGoldrick are all recalled to the squad which will gather in Dublin on Sunday week before training together for the first time the next day.
Ireland play the Netherlands on Friday the 27th of May after which O’Neill is due to announce his final travelling party of 23 players. That squad will reassemble in Cork on morning of Monday, May 30th, with the team set to play its final warm up game, against Belarus, the following evening.
Aside from O’Dowd, there are no real surprises in the squad. Jack Byrne was one of aa number of players regarded as having an outside chance of inclusion but he has missed along with a number of players like Aberdeen’s Adam Rooney and Brentford’s Alan Judge, whose hopes of inclusion had been hit by injuries.
Of those who have made the cut, a number still face a battle to be fully fit for the tournament with Marc Wilson, for instance, having suffered a number of setbacks in his attempts to recover from a long term problems but O’Neill says that he will give his regulars every chance to prove their availability.
“I think it is a concern that some of the players haven’t been playing recently,” he said. “Wilson, who has been an integral part of the proceedings for quite some time but I think that he thinks he will be fit; he’s going to see a specialist on Friday.
“But we’ll have another look at it. Hendrick hasn’t played for a while but he has been getting back. It is a concern of course...Seamus (Coleman) has had a hamstring problem, he won’t play for his club again, but hopefully he’ll be okay. “
Asked whether he thought one or more of his established stars might miss out, he admitted that it could well happen. “I think there’s a possibility but there’s a little more time and while we have to narrow the squad down to 23, we’ll give those players that time, I think they deserve it.
“Naturally, one way or the other, there’ll be a bit of a disappointment for one or two players who miss out but that’s the nature of these things.”
He made clear, meanwhile, that his intention with O’Dowwd is to give the young player an experience that would stand to him further down the line. “I went down to watch the under-21 game against Italy and I thought he did very very well in the match; he followed it up with an excellent performance for Oxford in the (Johnstone’s) Paint Trophy final.
“I like him, I think he’s got ability. Can he play higher? I think so and just like Byrne, I think he will benefit from having the experience of being around the squad for a bit and getting a feel for what it’s like.”