O'Neill begins work on World Cup mission
Martin O'Neill says he is planning for the long term by bringing fresh faces into his squad for this month's friendlies with Switzerland and Slovakia, but he has again indicated that he is in no rush to sign a new deal.
The Ireland manager joked that he could follow Enda Kenny's lead by quitting and remaining in control anyway as he dealt with all questions about his contract with tongue firmly in cheek.
"You can resign and stay on anyway," laughed O'Neill, who had earlier quipped that talks with the FAI would be conducted at some stage in the next couple of years. It is expected that he will sit down with Abbotstown officials around the forthcoming Aviva Stadium games.
His actions spoke louder than words with Chris Forrester (Peterborough), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen) and Matt Doherty (Wolves) named in the provisional 40-man list for the first time. Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham) is recalled after winning a pair of caps as a youngster on Steve Staunton's tour of the USA in the 2007.
Significantly, O'Neill closed the door on a recall for Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney after there were suggestions he was ready to come out of retirement, arguing that the inclusion of Blackburn's Shane Duffy made more sense. "Damien is 35 and Shane isn't," he said.
He will also invite Jack Byrne (Manchester City) and Alan Browne (Preston) to train with the senior group after they play for Noel King's U21 side against Italy on March 24 - Ireland play Switzerland the following night before hosting Slovakia on March 29.
The 40-man list will be cut closer to the time but O'Neill hinted that he wants to give the uncapped players a feel for the group with a view to involvement in the World Cup campaign.
"The Euros might be a swansong for one or two of the senior players so I think it would be important for these players to be around and not stepping into a World Cup venue when they've had no experience," said O'Neill.