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It's make your mind up time Martin

MARTIN O'Neill has had to wait, wait again and then wait some more before the fixtures calendar has caught up with his appointment as Ireland international manager.

He names his first competitive squad tomorrow and it seems like an eternity since he stepped out with Roy Keane in the Gibson Hotel to pretty much universal acclaim in November last year.

The intervening period has been filled with much meaningless blather from all concerned who watch him for a living and most of it about Roy's sideshow.

concept

Sideshow is probably too small a concept for the intense and often scary interest we have in everything Keane does but O'Neill, who often looks slightly overwhelmed by his assistant's newsworthiness, certainly learned a thing or to in the last while about the Corkman's standing in Ireland.

The light on Keane has served a purpose. O'Neill has a had bad run of results and while he has always been quick to say 'never mind the results, wait for the quality', there is a nagging question at the back of the mind. Will it be enough when it all comes together in the Euro 2016 opener in Tiblisi against Georgia in three weeks' time?

It's hard to focus on any aspect of O'Neill's plans because everything we have seen and heard has been ephemeral. Much positivity and aspirational noises, but very little to go on.

He has offered no clear picture of what he intends in terms of personnel and until we know the team for Georgia, it is difficult to predict what O'Neill's approach will be to a difficult away night in a place a long way from home.

That, essentially, is what O'Neill has been chasing for the last nine months, fine detail and players. Drilling down into the dark corners of his squad list for anything which might help deliver qualification for France in 2016.

So far, he hasn't succeeded in adding any quality to his squad via the Granny rule and we can only hope that he might spring a surprise when he names his names tomorrow.

Already, the new season has thrown up some bad news. Richard Dunne's decision to retire was a blow - a big blow if not an entirely unexpected one. And the first weekend of Premier League action wasn't exactly set alight by moments of inspiring brilliance from O'Neill's best players - Aiden McGeady the honourable exception.

perfect

His wonderful goal against Leicester was a perfect start to a new season for a man who readily admits that Ireland has not seen the best of him.

More good news from that game was the appearance of Seamus Coleman looking fit and replacing McGeady for a quick cameo towards the end and the fact that James McCarthy is looking every inch the main man at Goodison.

But reassurance from the Toffees' Irish crew was counter-balanced by the image of a very sheepish Shane Long, standing in Liverpool's six-yard box on Sunday afternoon after he squandered a great chance to win a point for his new club Southampton.

A day earlier, Marc Wilson and Stephen Ireland took courtesy too far when they stepped aside to allow Andreas Weimann in for Aston Villa at the Brittania Stadium while Keane prowled the touchline wearing his new club colours.

Jon Walters didn't even make the bench for that game and, according to reports in local media is on the way out of Stoke City.

"It's not for me to consider, it's for the club. But if the manager turns round and says we've got enough players and we are accepting an offer, what can you do?" was Walters sanguine view of the road ahead last week.

It's an old story for Walters and an older one for international managers. O'Neill will be sweating for the next ten days hoping everyone he names make it.

All things being equal, he will have his top guns from the top flight but he knows that players like Walters who can't get a game in the pump-action Premier League will still have a job to do.


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