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O'Neill is glad to have Gibson

MARTIN O'Neill has spread his net about as wide as it can go when he named a 36-man provisional squad for the upcoming Euro 2016 opener against Georgia in Tiblisi, preceded by a friendly against Oman.

Back in the mix are Hull winger Robbie Brady and Everton midfielder Darron Gibson and while O'Neill welcomed their return, he wasn't giving anything away about their future prospects.

"I've spoken to Darron and he's had about three 45 minute practice games and a game in which he played 90 minutes. He might be a bit below in terms of match fitness. He's at least on the radar and that's good news for us all."

"Robbie (Brady) had an injury-hit season. I'll probably head up to Hull and Stoke at the weekend. He might get on the field of play, he didn't last week. All told though, very positive."

O'Neill is even more guarded than usual in his comments about his squad but he did confirm that Robbie Keane will be his captain for the road ahead: "I don't see why he wouldn't be?"

He also suggested that more than one in his huge squad will be dealing with injuries in the next ten days and are anything but certain to turn up.

"Is it 94 I've named, " he said, laughing. "Well we'll bring that down to 87. In this list there are a couple of players who are carrying injuries as well, Andy Reid being one."

And has he good idea of his best team?

"I have a fair idea, yeah."

O'Neill was slightly more effusive about retired hero Richard Dunne and said he was disappointed that he had chosen to go now.

"He has been fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. We've had to do him for some considerable time. I signed him for Aston Villa and he was brilliant. So much so, that he got into the Premiership team of the season.

"My own personal view . . . that was his decision. I wouldn't not have written him off even though people here said I had written him off. But I understand why he did it. I was disappointed he wanted to retire because I still think he is well and truly capable.

O'Neill has moved to try to gain some clarity on the future of Villa prospect Jack Grealish although he would not be a drawn into any definitive predictions.

"I spoke to his father and like anything else, he's a young kid coming through, a lot of potential. Give him a little bit of time. He has a number of options. He has a lot of talent. He's got taller and he's got much stronger in the last couple of months."

"We had a decent conversation and I'll just leave it at that."

O'Neill was delighted to see Aiden McGeady's tonic start to the season for Everton and urged him to go and prove to everyone that he can do the same regularly.

"Everyone knows in this room know he has terrific feet. It's up to him to go and show that talent. And have no regrets."

IRISH SQUAD (v Oman & Georgia): D Forde, K Westwood, D Randolph, R Elliot, R Keogh, M Wilson, S Coleman, J O'Shea, A Pearce, S Kelly, P McShane, D Delaney, J O'Brien, S Duffy, J McCarthy, J Hendrick, C Clark, S Ward, G Whelan, D Gibson, A Reid, A McGeady, A Pilkington, J McClean, R Brady, S Quinn, D Meyler, W Hoolahan, R Keane, S Long, D Murphy, J Walters, K Doyle, A Stokes, S Cox, C Sammon.


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