Saturday 10 December 2016

Contract discussions just one issue for O'Neill at start of busy week

Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill could find the time this week to sit down with the FAI and hold talks on extending his contract.

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But the Ireland manager has plenty of other things on his mind as he deals with the logistics of the last international window before the European Championships.

O'Neill is expected to stay on for the World Cup 2018 campaign and had pinpointed this gathering as a possible opportunity to accelerate discussions with his employers.

"There's nothing at the moment but I think there might be an opportunity in the week that we're here," he says.

Still, with a 33-man squad to look after - 35 if you add in U-21 starlet Jack Byrne and Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers, who accepted an invitation to join training for two days - the Ireland manager has a number of issues to consider that are of concern in the immediate future.

Injuries to Robbie Brady and Harry Arter have complicated plans for the double header with Switzerland and Slovakia. Bumps and bruises meant that the first training session of the week was mostly a warm-down exercise, and the intensity will be stepped up today.

The Derryman will then have to assess the options at his disposal and figure out the best way to spread them across the games.

He did disclose that competing goalkeepers Darren Randolph and Rob Elliot will each start one game.

Alan Judge of Brentford will make a first start and so will Arter if he can shake off a Achilles problem. Kevin Doyle jetted in from America after lining out for Colorado Rapids on Sunday night and O'Neill feels he is due an outing too.

"He was always in my mind for one of these games anyway; just to see how he's coping," said the Ireland boss, who feels that the standard of the MLS is improving but is still quite difficult to assess.

"There are other people coming up; Daryl Murphy for instance has got ahead of him at the moment but listen, Kevin's got a bit of spirit about him, he's a nice lad so I think he'll want to take this chance."

Judge was also on the periphery in the autumn, but is still waiting for a first cap. The winger has scored 14 goals this term.

"He's got talent, good heart and has got great enthusiasm. He wants to belong to it and wants to be part of it," explained O'Neill. "I think he has shown enough in the games for Brentford over the last year that it would be nice to give him a go."

The 64-year-old previously stated that this window would be the last chance for a bolter to stake their claim. It's slightly different for players that have already been in the fold that are out favour.

Keiren Westwood and Darron Gibson were cut from the provisional panel but O'Neill explained that the latter has a slight hamstring issue which led to him staying at Everton and it's possible he could join the throng on the training ground later in the week.

However, he has praised Aiden McGeady for going out on loan, and the fact Gibson has stayed on the fringes at Everton has weakened his position.

"As an outfield player, he hasn't played for some time at competitive level. That has to be a concern for me," he said.

Come the summer, he will not want to be carrying players that are rusty. The gap between the close of the Championship and Premier League seasons presents a slight challenge and he is considering organising an 11 v 11 match of some kind to coincide with the May 30-June 3 training camp in Cork.

Irish Independent

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