Martin O’Neill welcomes Shane Duffy’s return to fitness
Republic of Ireland boss wants Brighton defender back in the frame for Austria clash
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill with, from left, Brayden Adeboye (8) Emma Sherrard 8) and Charlie Dunwoody (9) as he launched the FAI’s Summer Schools Programme. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Martin O’Neill expects to have Brighton’s Shane Duffy available for the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Austria.
The manager hopes the 25-year-old defender can then push on after the summer at club level with a really strong season in the Premier League, his first opportunity to play regularly in the English top tier.
“I think that would be great,” said the manager at the launch of the FAI’s Sports Direct sponsored Summer Schools Programme.
“I’m sure Brighton will have to try and strengthen but I think Shane is really up for the fight.
“I like Shane. I like him a lot. I know he made a mistake for the header against France but overall I’ve been very impressed with him. He just needs more awareness, which he knows himself, the goal against Moldova, both he and Clark getting caught out.
“I’m not saying Shane is ever going to Usain Bolt or anything like that but you actually can improve your speed and those are the things he’s trying to do and his attitude when he comes into the camp is very good.
“I think it was going to be hard for Shane to break through [at Everton]. Jagielka was playing for England, they’d got some really decent centre-halves, so that was hard and given the length of time that it would have taken to break through, it was better maybe for him to step out of it, go down and start somewhere else. That’s what’s happened and now he has this opportunity to play in the Premier League, I don’t think he’ll want to waste it.”
Duffy has not played competitively since the start of March when he suffered a broken foot but Chris Hughton informed O’Neill recently that the defender is fully fit again and the Ireland manager anticipates him being amongst the 16-17 players he is planning to bring to Fota Island for a few days in advance of the trip to New Jersey for the game against Mexico and the friendly with Uruguay back in Dublin at the start of June.
The manager is somewhat less certain about James McCarthy’s fitness but says t he is “hopeful” that the Everton midfielder will be available by the time Austria travel to Ireland the following week. Seamus Coleman, meanwhile will join up with the squad for the qualifying game.
“He is coming and he wants to be here. He certainly wants to be here for the big game coming up, absolutely. Seamus is just not a part of these things, he has made some things happen for us. He has got the goal against Georgia, he’s a big, big player for us, he’s the captain of the team and we would want him around.”
Precisely how long the full-back spends with the group “will be entirely up to his [recovery] programme. I don’t want to take away from what he is doing with Everton because he is in their hands at this minute. But he will be here for the Austria game, and maybe a day or two before that. I think the lads would love to see him too.”
O’Neill declined to specifically criticise Fifa’s decision to suspend Neil Taylor for just two games as punishment for the challenge that broke Coleman’s leg but suggested that his captain might have some basis to feel a little aggrieved.
“I probably don’t want to be judge and jury on this thing,” he said. “He was remorseful, the lad, no question, and he sought him out but it is a bad challenge, you know? I’m not saying people go in determined to break people in two but if you’re going in there, there’s a very decent chance you’re going to injury someone. From that viewpoint it’s poor.
“In terms of the number of games, I think that is up to someone else. If you’re on the receiving end of that sort of challenge, which is a bit reckless, I think you’re more than disappointed that your career is on hold for a while. And it’s not just Coleman, if you think about young Alan Judge, he’s had a really wretched time this last year or so.”
Details of the FAI camps can be found at summersoccerschools.ie