Sport Soccer

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Hughes insists there's no rush on Ireland to decide future with Republic

Garry Doyle

Martin O'Neill has no scheduled plan to meet Stephen Ireland this week as one of Irish football's longest running sagas shows no sign of finishing on a positive note.

Seven years, and two managers, have now passed since the Stoke City midfielder ended his brief international career and while the Cobh man has strongly suggested he would like to be reunited with O'Neill, the manager who brought him to Aston Villa, no direct contact has been made, nor is any planned for this week.

In the last fortnight, Ireland has followed up his public comments by speaking equally as positively about an international return to people at Stoke. The reason for the delay, it has been stated, is because Ireland wants to be in peak condition should a call from O'Neill come.

Yet the issue does not appear to be of immediate concern to O'Neill, Ireland or Stoke manager Mark Hughes. "The next Ireland game is in March," said Hughes this weekend. "So, there is no rush."

However, despite the personal connection between O'Neill and Ireland, given the midfielder's inconsistent stance on this subject, the longer this issue remains up in the air, the likelihood of reconciliation between Ireland the player and Ireland the country decreases.


O'Neill, meanwhile, is due back in Dublin later this week for a pre-arranged meeting with FAI chief John Delaney, where he will finalise his back-room team with the appointments of Steve Walford and Steve Guppy.

Their imminent arrivals leaves the positions of former internationals and current FAI scouts, Frank Stapleton and Mick Martin, in serious doubt, given how O'Neill has already shown a willingness to bring his own men into coaching positions, most notably when Seamus McDonagh replaced the incumbent, Alan Kelly, as Irish goalkeeping coach.

The FAI have given O'Neill the freedom to hire and fire and the fact there has been little contact between the new manager and his predecessor's scouting staff, their futures appear vulnerable.

Meanwhile, FAI chief scout Don Givens was in contact with Norwich City's Nathan Redmond last month to see if the midfielder, who is eligible to play for Ireland, wanted to avail of the opportunity.

While Givens received a negative response, it is likely O'Neill and Keane will return to Carrow Road to deliver their sales pitch to the 19-year-old who has made 10 Premier League appearances this season.

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace's new manager Tony Pulis is planning to make a €2.5m bid for Glenn Whelan in January. The Irish international has started just three of the club's 12 Premier League matches this season.

Irish Independent

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