Sean Maguire named in Ireland squad for Georgia and Serbia
Martin O’Neill recalls Ciaran Clark and Everton’s James McCarthy for qualifiers
Sean Maguire has been named in Martin O’Neill’s 39-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Serbia. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Martin O’Neill has suggested that Sean Maguire might have made his provisional squad for Ireland’s games against Georgia and Serbia even if the hadn’t left Cork City for Preston over the summer, although the manager acknowledged he sees the Championship as a step towards international football for the 23 year-old striker.
O’Neill, who has made no secret of his desire to uncover somebody capable of scoring regularly for Ireland, gave the impression that Maguire’s call-up might have been delayed somewhat by his overall performance in last season’s FAI Cup final despite the then City player ultimately scoring the dame’s only goal in extra time.
The player subsequently impressed the international manager against Dundalk in early June when his three goals all but extinguished any chance that Stephen Kenny’s side might retain their title and O’Neill, when asked about the speed with which the call up came after a move to England, suggested that that had been a key moment in his deliberations.
“I’ve seen a lot more of him, I think that’s the most important thing,” said the northerner when asked about his inclusion in a preliminary squad of 39 for the two World Cup qualifiers next month.
“I didn’t think that he did particularly well in the cup final but he was excellent in the game against Dundalk, really excellent. Still, when I say that he’s got a call up, he’s made it into a fairly long list of players. We’ve had him watched and we will see again this week when they have another match.
“I don’t think that I’ve been behind the scenes in terms of picking players from the League of Ireland,” O’Neill continued. “I want players to feel comfortable in the group and I hope that at some stage players like him can get a chance because if you can score a goal at a fairly decent level then hopefully you can make the step up (to international football).”
A number of other players return after absences through injury with Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy and David Meyler amongst those included at this stage. O’Neill also mentioned Rob Elliot’s return to first team action at newly promoted Newcastle over the weekend as a positive development.
“Rob’s been out for a long time,” he said, “but he’s had the opportunity over the summer to get properly fit and he’s taken his place in the Newcastle team yesterday which is encouraging.”
McCarthy was ruled out of Everton’s game at the weekend but O’Neill says he believes that this was merely a matter of match fitness and that the player has told him that he feels okay.
Asked about Ireland’s prospects of qualifying, he suggested that the team probably needs at least nine points from 12 to make it to Russia.
“It’s the tough end now. We have some points on the board but these games are going to make ferocious inroads into the group. These are difficult matches coming. We probably need to remain unbeaten if we can and probably need to win three out of the four games.”
Ireland play Georgia away on September 2nd before welcoming group leaders Serbia to the Aviva Stadium on September 5th.
Provisional Ireland squad: Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), Colin Doyle (Bradford City)
Defenders: Cyrus Christie (Middlesbrough), Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce (Derby County), Paul McShane (Reading), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), John O’Shea (Sunderland), John Egan (Brentford), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End), Kevin Long, Stephen Ward (Burnley), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Midfielders: Aiden McGeady (Sunderland), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion), Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady (Burnley), James McCarthy (Everton), Stephen Quinn, Liam Kelly (Reading), David Meyler (Hull City), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Jonathan Hayes (Celtic), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan (Preston North End)
Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Burnley), Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest), David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town), Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Sean Maguire (Preston North End)