O’Neill hopes for better Jeff Hendrick form after court case
‘It’s good that it’s cleared now and he should get his mind totally fixed and be ready’
Jeff Hendrick, who is originally from Kilmore Drive, Artane, was found not guilty of violent disorder. Photograph: Collins Courts
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has admitted Jeff Hendrick’s form may have been adversely affected by a criminal court case which hung over him until two weeks ago.
The midfielder faced charges of violent disorder in relation to a late-night incident in Dublin back in 2013 but was fully cleared of any wrongdoing.
The 25-year-old had been particularly impressive in helping Ireland reach the 2016 European Championships, producing some good performances at the finals in France too, but seemed to be off his usual standard for the home games in June against Uruguay and Austria.
His manager has suggested the impending case could have been a factor and, now the episode is over, wants the Burnley midfielder to rediscover his class for the business end of the World Cup qualifiers, which begin with a double-header against Georgia and Ireland’s co-leaders at the top of Group D, Serbia, in early September.
“I don’t think you want things that are hanging around you like that,” O’Neill said about the court case, while in Kilkenny for the FAI Cup first round draw on Friday.
“It’s good that it’s cleared now and he should get his mind totally fixed and be ready for the matches.
“His form in the Euros was fantastic and sometimes it takes a bit of time to recapture that.”
O’Neill is also looking for Robbie Brady to a put a patchy first half of the year behind him. The reigning FAI senior and young Player of the Year started only seven Premier League games after joining Hendrick at Burnley in January, recognising he struggled to cope with the return to the Premier League.
“Robbie Brady as well hasn’t made the impact he wanted to after getting that move from Norwich to Burnley,” noted the Derryman. “He’s still finding his feet there. I’m expecting bigger things from both Jeff and Robbie as they get older.”
With the recent signing of Jon Walters from Stoke City swelling Burnley’s Irish contingent to five full internationals, O’Neill says it will aid his weekend scouting missions.
“It looks as if I’m going to get a season ticket up at Turf Moor,” he joked. “My stand is that I’m never forcing players to move clubs. Of course, club football is very important and for the likes of Jon, I’ve never been wildly concerned about him coming in and not playing much football.
“He’s been promised more football at Burnley which is essentially decent news. It will be a good move for him.
“I don’t think Jon has ever worried too much about security but when you get the other side of 30 and get an extra season in your contract, I think it does help.
“Aiden McGeady has followed his Preston manager Simon Grayson to Sunderland. Simon knows Aiden’s game and that’s important for the player at this stage of his career.”