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Sunday 21 September 2014

O'Neill challenges Everton duo to step up to next level

Aisling Crowe

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

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Everton's James McCarthy (R) challenges Arsenal's Jack Wilshere
Everton's James McCarthy (R) challenges Arsenal's Jack Wilshere
Leicester City's Paul Konchesky (left) and Everton's Aiden McGeady battle for the ball
Leicester City's Paul Konchesky (left) and Everton's Aiden McGeady battle for the ball

Martin O'NEILL has thrown down the gauntlet to the Ireland pair of James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady and told them that they need to step up to the next level.

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With just two weeks to go to Ireland's opening game of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, a daunting assignment away to Georgia, O'Neill has challenged the Everton duo to grab the opportunities in front of them and gain his trust.

The Irish manager believes that both players are capable of rising to that challenge and the new campaign can be the perfect stage for them to fulfill their potential.

"I think myself that McCarthy can be more forceful during the course of a game," said O'Neill. "Now, I'm not asking people who are not capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck to do so, I'm asking people who are and young McCarthy is capable of that. From what I've seen, he is capable of doing that."

O'Neill feels McCarthy's quiet nature, and the £13m Everton paid for him last September, may have left him a little overawed, but the midfielder has had a year to adapt and learn at a big club from the players around him, which can only be beneficial for him and his country according to his international manager.

The 22-year-old formed a strong midfield partnership with Gareth Barry, and O'Neill wants him to take the confidence gained from his part in Everton's record points haul of last season into his performances for Ireland over the coming weeks.

"Roberto Martinez played him week in, week out. Now, I'm quite sure, knowing this, he would have gained oodles of confidence by working with Gareth Barry, absolutely. The little things that Gareth Barry would have done would have made a serious difference. Now, he might have to take this mantle on himself here with us, to thrust himself really, really, forcefully into games and dominate matches for a number of years," added O'Neill.

McGeady joined McCarthy at Everton in January and O'Neill says he is a huge admirer of the winger, but there is one aspect of his game that he needs to improve upon, particularly for his country.

"I've been a big fan of Aiden's for ages and ages now, but this is his time. I don't just mean for us but his ratio of goals scored to games needs to improve. He is in the Premiership now and it is his opportunity to show that he is the player that he should be."

In 68 appearances for Ireland since he made his debut against Jamaica in July 2004, McGeady - who scored a brilliant goal last weekend - has only scored three goals, a return O'Neill wants him to improve upon for these qualifiers.

McCarthy has yet to score for his country and O'Neill is hoping that both players can improve this and step up to the leadership roles he wants them to inhabit in his team.

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