independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Martin O'Neill refuses to rule out Ireland return for Shay Given

MARTIN O'NEILL has refused to rule out an international return for Shay Given after the Donegal man's loan move to Middlesbrough, but will not encourage Wes Hoolahan to further his international ambitions by seeking a temporary switch from Norwich.

O'Neill, speaking at his end of year press conference in Dublin, said that no discussions have taken place between himself and Given. However, he is open to speaking to the 37-year-old if there is desire from the player's side.

The veteran netminder retired from the international sphere after Euro 2012 before subsequently hinting that he was open to a comeback under Giovanni Trapattoni. He had fallen out of favour with Aston Villa at that juncture so the Italian persisted with David Forde, but a short term switch to Middlesbrough has ended Given's long spell in the wilderness and O'Neill is monitoring his situation.

"I would not discount that, not discount that at all," he said. "I haven't spoken to Shay. I would do at some stage. If he turned around and said, "Listen, I'm back" - he's now out on loan at the moment - I wouldn't discount it.

"I'm having a conversation with you here about somebody I haven't spoken to. I know Shay, I've met him a number of times but that's before I've taken the job. That is something that I certainly wouldn't rule out if I had a conversation and he was thinking about coming back. I might be a million miles out of my depth here because he might have no intention of coming back."

Meanwhile, Hoolahan is a player who is definitely part of O'Neill's plans, but the Dubliner is struggling to get a look-in under Chris Hughton at Norwich.

The Irish boss has no intention of urging the playmaker to seek a change of scenery in January because it annoyed him when international managers made that demand when he was a club boss.

"There was nothing irritated me more as a club manager than to find out that their international manager had said they should move," he said.

"It's none of your business to tell me he should be moving. It was lost in translation sometimes but it was really irritating. The last thing I want to do - I don't want to be running around and telling Wes Hoolahan he should do this or do that. I certainly don't want Chris on the phone to say, 'What are you doing there?"

"There are some players who you know, because of certain circumstances, might not play every week. Wes hasn't played regularly for Norwich for some time. But I thought Wes was excellent for us in the game against Latvia, really excellent. He did very well.

"Of course you would love players to be playing, you want them to be playing regularly because it's easier for them to drop in. But it doesn't mean that I wouldn't pick someone who has the ability but hasn't played in four or five weeks.

O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane have attended a number of games over the past month and the manager is educating himself on players who might qualify for Ireland under the grandparent rule. West Ham midfielder Mark Noble was watched, but he has again stressed that his preference is to represent England. Norwich's Nathan Redmond is on the radar but his eligibility has yet to be firmly established.

The Derry man has met with FAI officials to speak about an itinerary for 2014. Ultimately, the year will revolve around the Euro 2016 qualifying draw on February 23. Ireland will be second seeds and with 24 teams making the finals, the path to France is smoother although, with trademark humour, O'Neill made light of how some have interpreted the format change.

"It's nice to hear that some people are saying we've already qualified, which is really great. it means I can put my feet up," he quipped.

"I would love to be in the easiest possible group but that won't happen. We'll take what comes and give it everything we've got in September."

Daniel McDonnell

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