Saturday 7 December 2019

Martin O'Neill excludes Stephen Ireland from 32-man squad but plans face-to-face talks

Daniel McDonell

MARTIN O'NEILL has hinted that he could still add Stephen Ireland to his squad for Ireland's summer internationals but he will go and meet the Stoke man face to face to determine if he genuinely wants to return to the Irish fold.

The Derryman named his provisional 32-man panel this morning, and Ireland wasn't included in the substantial group that will be cut down closer to the time.

However, O'Neill refused to rule out a comeback for the Cobh lad, indicating that he wants to follow up on a earlier phone discussion by sitting down the exiled playmaker to see how he feels. There have been positive soundings from the 27-year-old's camp, but O'Neill would prefer direct contact.

"All those things are emanating from that camp, I'd like to hear them myself," said the Irish boss.

"This is a provisional squad so by rules and regulation I can add and subtract as needs be. I wanted to deliberately see Stephen on his own and I would intend to do that. I wanted to wait until the season was finished.

"I had spoken to him some time before and said I wanted this face-to-face meeting with him. He was on the periphery [with Stoke] at that particular time and a little bit down."

O'Neill stressed that he is happy to draw the line under what happened before in the player's tempestuous international career, but asserted that he is no position to offer guarantees about a place in his starting XI.

"I don't have any issue with him because I'm new in, the slate has been cleaned and all that stuff. If he really does want to play, I'm not saying he's going to walk straight into the team. If he genuinely wants to play and says that he's ready to work to get into the side and there'll be no excuses. It'll be absolutely fine."

Ireland have four games on their itinerary, kicking off with a Dublin friendly against Turkey on May 25. That will be followed by a trip to London take on Italy on May 31 and then an American tour consisting of a June 6 exhibition with Costa Rica in Philadelphia and a June 10 encounter with Portugal in New York.

There are minimal changes to the squad from March's friendly with Serbia. O'Neill originally named a 29-man squad for that exercise, and the only members of that list not part of the latest selection are the injured Andy Reid and the experienced Richard Dunne who had earlier indicated that he would sit out this exercise to allow rest at the end of a long season.

Robbie Keane missed the Serbia match due to club commitments and is added to the panel although O'Neill suspects that he is more likely to be a part of the US leg as opposed to the earlier matches.

West Ham's Joey O'Brien and Derby pair Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon are recalled. Everton's uncapped Everton defender Shane Duffy, who was first called up by Giovanni Trapattoni back in 2011, is also brought back into the fold after spending the year on loan with Yeovil.

"Richard Dunne has had a long season," said O'Neill, "If you look at the squad, I have young lads like Duffy coming through that I've seen a few times. I wouldn't mind having a look at some other options. I know exactly can do."

O'Neill feels that Ireland will face a tough series given that three of the four opponents - with Turkey the exception - are World Cup bound.

"This is exactly what I want, it's our last opportunity before September arrives and I want to make the most of it," said the Derryman. "From the messages I'm getting the lads I want to play, and this is about getting to know them a bit better and maybe changing them around a little bit in terms of personnel in different matches."

Republic of Ireland's 32-man squad for the upcoming friendlies:

Goalkeepers: David Forde (Millwall FC ), Darren Randolph (Birmingham City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United)

Defenders: Richard Keogh (Derby County), Marc Wilson (Stoke City), Seamus Coleman (Everton), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Alex Pearce (Reading), Stephen Kelly (Reading), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace), Joey O’Brien (West Ham), Shane Duffy (Everton), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Brighton)

Midfielders: James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Paul Green (Leeds United), Aiden McGeady (Everton),  Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Stephen Quinn (Hull City), David Meyler (Hull City), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)

Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Hull City), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town), Jon Walters (Stoke City), Kevin Doyle (QPR), Anthony Stokes (Celtic), Simon Cox (Nottingham Forrest), Connor Sammon (Derby County).

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