Martin O’Neill plans ahead as he calls up five uncapped players

Ireland manager broadens options with eye on World Cup qualifying campaign

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill announces his squad. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill announces his squad. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

He may have effectively ended Damien Delaney’s international career at Friday’s squad announcement but Martin O’Neill also started to look beyond the European Championships to a time when some of his most experienced campaigners are expected to depart.

The Republic of Ireland manager has named five uncapped players in his squad for the friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia and has promised that at least two under-21s will spent a day or two with the senior players.

Two of those included, Eunan O’Kane and Alan Judge, have been about before but both are likely to see game time later this month.

The others – Matt Doherty, Chris Forrester and Jonny Hayes – may have to wait a little bit longer to play their part but all will take encouragement from their inclusion at a time that O’Neill is weighing up his wider options.

Strong run

Of the three, Hayes is comfortably the eldest at 28 and probably faces the toughest task to establish himself. Another Aberdeen player, striker Adam Rooney, would almost certainly have made this extended list were he not injured. Stephen Gleeson, who earned two senior caps in 2007 under Stephen Staunton, also got a positive mention after a strong run of form for Birmingham City this season.

The two under-21s mentioned – Alan Browne of Preston North End and Manchester city’s Jack Byrne – are expected to work with the senior players for at least one day before heading to Waterford with Noel King ahead of European Championship qualifying games against Italy and Slovenia.

“I would like them to join the squad for a couple of days,” said O’Neill. “Noel King doesn’t have a problem with that. I’m very conscious of the fact he has a qualification game on the Thursday. But to try to get players through to senior level [is the aim] – just for those boys to be around the squad for a day or two because we have, after the Euros, not long before we’re playing World Cup matches.

“And we are, I think, going to lose one or two of the players [after the Euros]. It might be a swansong for one or two of the senior players so I think it would be important for one or two of these players to be around and not stepping into a World Cup venue when they’ve had no experience.

“I think it will help their confidence. If someone thinks they’re in or around senior players, it can only be a good thing even if it’s only for one or two days.”

Byrne who is currently on loan from Manchester city to Cambuur in the Netherlands is seen as a particularly good prospect, something O’Neill readily acknowledged.

“He’s doing very well,” he said. “I’ve not seen him personally but from the DVDs, obviously he’s doing very well. He’s one that you definitely feel should come through. He’s got the talent and he’s gone out on loan to get some experience.”

A chance to make their mark 

Matt Doherty 24

Signed by Wolves from Bohemians after being spotted in a preseason friendly a few years back, Doherty then had a couple of loan spells away including one at Hibernian where, under Pat Fenlon, he played in a Scottish Cup final.

He broke into the side back at Molineux three years ago and has become a fixture in the Championship side with more than first 100 games under his belt at this stage.

Although his preferred position is right back, he is a versatile defender who can play anywhere across the back four. He was previously mentioned in connection with a possible call up last year when Cyrus Christie came into the reckoning.

Chris Forrester 23

Another who had a spell with Bohemians before making his name at St Patrick’s Athletic where he made more than 100 first team appearances, winning both the league and the cup along the way.

The midfielder, who can play in the centre or out wide, was repeatedly linked with a move away due to his eye for a pass and a goal before Peterborough signed him last summer. There, he has quickly established himself as one of the League One club’s key players and chairman Darragh McAnthony has suggested that he would now be worth “millions” on the transfer market.

He won far wider praise for his performance in the recently televised cup encounter with Premier League side West Brom.

Johnny Hayes 28

Though from Dublin, Hayes is a product of the Reading youth academy who had to wait longer than most for his day in the sun. Having failed to establish himself at Reading, he moved to Leicester City where he made a handful of first team appearances and spent a good deal of time out on loan.

His career has blossomed, though, since moving to Scotland, first to join Inverness Caledonian Thistle then Aberdeen where his contract was recently renewed. A wide midfielder with an eye for goal, he scored a spectacular one last month in the 2-1 win over Celtic that may just have been instrumental in earning him this call up. 

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