Thursday 27 October 2016

Martin O'Neill calls on midfield to help fill goals void

Published 06/10/2016 | 02:30

Martin O'Neill Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Martin O'Neill Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill has called on his midfielders to improve their goal return to aid Ireland's World Cup prospects.

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The manager wants an extra contribution from that department to compensate for difficulties in the striking ranks.

Robbie Keane's retirement has left a void, while Shane Long and Jonathan Walters head into tonight's meeting with Georgia waiting to get off the mark for the season.

O'Neill would like the pressure on his front men to be eased by a better spread of goals.

The versatile Robbie Brady has stepped up over the past year by scoring seven goals for his country, but Jeff Hendrick only got off the mark in Serbia last month and James McCarthy is yet to score for Ireland.

James McClean has struck five in green, while Wes Hoolahan is on three and Glenn Whelan has registered two across his lengthy career.

"If you look at any reasonably successful team, they have a goalscoring midfielder," said O'Neill.

"The encouragement is there now that Jeff has broken his duck and followed it up at Burnley, so in terms of confidence and playing in the biggest league of all, that should give him a great boost.

"We don't score a lot of goals and that's not just now, it's over a long period of time.

"Our best scorer has retired so someone has to take that mantle and if it's not a centre-forward then maybe a midfielder.

"We will try and find enough goals to qualify and, in the meantime, if we can unearth a goalscorer - that's what we'd want to do.

McCarthy is available for tonight's match after coming through a full training session although O'Neill indicated that he will be assessed this morning as Ireland look to build on their opening draw in Serbia.

Irish Independent

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