Thursday 12 December 2019

O'Neill aims to lift Derby trio

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has urged his Derby trio to make Italy pay for their shattered Barclays Premier League dreams.

Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon joined up with their international team-mates at their Portmarnock base on Monday evening a little more than 48 hours after Saturday's heartbreaking Sky Bet Championship play-off defeat by QPR.

Central defender Keogh was particularly devastated after his error handed Bobby Zamora the chance to fire the 10-man Londoners into the top flight in a dramatic conclusion to the game at Wembley.

However, O'Neill and his staff made a point of sitting down with the Rams contingent following their arrival in an attempt to lift their spirits ahead of Saturday's friendly clash with the Italians at Craven Cottage.

The manager said: "They came in last night and we did have a chat with all three. Richard in particular, obviously, is devastated because he feels as if his mistake at the end led to Queen's Park Rangers scoring the goal.

"Sometimes you have to remind him - I know it's desperately disappointing at this minute, but with the sort of season that he and the Derby team have had...

"That will be no consolation whatsoever to him at the moment, but in time you are hoping that time will be a bit of a healer.

"They came in last night and of course they are very, very disappointed. But the next couple of days, hopefully - and weather like this here - might start to improve his demeanour."

The three men all trained with their Ireland colleagues under glorious sunshine in Malahide on Tuesday morning, and midfielder Hendrick later admitted pulling on his boots once again had proved cathartic.

He said: "When you have a defeat in football, you want to get out and play another game, and coming away here will take our minds off what happened on Saturday.

"It's good for us just to get out and play and be back involved with the squad."

Hendrick, 22, was also quick to back 27-year-old Keogh to shake off his personal disappointment.

He said: "Obviously, he was sad after the game, but we have helped pick him back up and he's all right now. He got out there and trained and it takes his mind off it.

"He will be all right. He has been great for us all year and we need him to do the same next year.

"I'm sure he will get it out of his mind and be looking forward to next year."

The arrival of the three Derby men came as keeper Rob Elliot, and Stoke trio Marc Wilson, Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters all departed temporarily bound for weddings - in Elliot's case, his own - while 19-year-old Manchester City goalkeeper Ian Lawlor has also been drafted in.

QPR frontman Kevin Doyle will meet up on Thursday and Scunthorpe keeper Joe Murphy will join the party briefly in London the following day.

Only Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark did not train as he nursed a back problem, but he is expected to be fit to face Italy, if selected.

O'Neill is determined to test the depth of his squad in the remaining three summer games - Ireland will play Costa Rica in Philadelphia and Portugal in New Jersey early next month - as he looks towards September's opening Euro 2016 qualifier in Georgia.

He said: "Eventually these players are playing for their country, and a lot of them have decent experience.

"There are one or two younger players here who haven't done that much, and it's a combination of all of this.

"It's just a matter of trying to get ready for the game in September."

Meanwhile, O'Neill confirmed that decisions will be taken over the continued presence of long-time associates Steve Walford and Steve Guppy, who have been added to his staff for the current get-together, after the summer.

He said: "Steve Walford has been with me for quite some considerable time and Steve Guppy is an up-and-coming coach, so we will see what happens after the summer break."

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