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Wednesday 28 September 2016

O'Neill accepts transfers may mean he releases players from Ireland duty

Published 01/09/2015 | 09:09

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (pictured) has begun preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (pictured) has begun preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill will not stand in the way of any of his players tying up a move to a new club over the next 24 hours or so.

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O'Neill got to work with his 28-man squad at the Football Association of Ireland's new national training centre in Abbotstown for the first time on Monday as he began preparations for the must-win Euro 2016 Group D qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

However, he did so without Stoke striker Jonathan Walters, who was the subject of a rejected bid from Norwich last week, but whose future remains uncertain with the Potters keen to hand him a contract extension.

And O'Neill insisted he would be comfortable releasing other players if they had an opportunity to resolve their immediate future ahead of Tuesday's 6pm transfer deadline.

He said: "I said to the players beforehand that I will be prepared if somebody has to go at the last minute, either on loan somewhere, that's fine, or if it's a proper transfer.

"The loan system is one that I think that if people are happy enough with medicals being done elsewhere, then it's a matter of a fax machine."

In Walters' case, the interest was strong enough to delay his arrival in Dublin.

O'Neill said: "Jonny is [not here] only because there may be something happening to him. He wasn't completely sure, but there was little point in coming here for this morning and then maybe having to travel back.

"There may be something happening, although he's not terribly sure at this minute. But while there is the possibility of something happening to him, then I think it's best that he sees it until the transfer deadline is finished."

Only Walters and Colorado Rapids frontman Kevin Doyle, who was due to arrive from the United States later in the day, were missing as preparations for Friday night's clash with Gibraltar in Faro and Georgia's visit to the Aviva Stadium next Monday got under way.

Ireland trounced the group minnows 7-0 in Dublin in October last year after opening their campaign with a 2-1 victory in Tbilisi during the previous month, and a six-point haul this time around is essential if they are to keep alive their hopes of qualification with world champions Germany and leaders Poland waiting in the wings as matters draw to a conclusion next month.

For that reason, O'Neill insists they must approach both fixtures with the same intensity they would any other.

He said: "It's not a matter of saying the right things. This game is very important to us, and we can't look at anything else other than trying to win the game on Friday night.

"The build-up will be exactly for that. While today was gentler, it would have been regardless of who we were playing on Friday. But really it's a matter of getting focus now.

"Some players will have come in here - you know yourself - who have been doing very well at club level, one or two perhaps not that brilliantly so far and one or two who haven't played at all, so it's a matter of gathering together and galvanising us for the game."

The Republic currently sit in fourth place in the group behind the Poles, the Germans and Scotland after failing to gain revenge over Gordon Strachan's men for their defeat in Glasgow when they could only draw 1-1 at the Aviva in June.

O'Neill said: "We have got to the stage where we are into the second half of the group, four games left that we have to win, and it's as simple as that.

"Everybody plays the same number of games, everyone home and away, and it's up to us now to regain momentum."

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