Wednesday 13 December 2017

Martin O’Neill ready to dash some Euro dreams

Gibson among fringe men who could miss out in 'first draft'

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

At lunchtime today, Martin O'Neill will make public what is effectively the first draft of his squad for the European Championship finals.

Officially, the Derry man will be naming a provisional panel for the game with Holland at the Aviva Stadium on May 27 and past experience has taught his audience to expect an enlarged panel that will be cut down closer to that gathering.

He also has players involved in the Championship play-offs who will miss the Dutch date if they progress to the final at Wembley on May 28.

However, today's exercise will offer an insight into O'Neill's thinking and may well spell the end of the Euros dream for his fringe operators.

Points of interest include whether Darron Gibson, Keiren Westwood and David McGoldrick are given a chance to play their way into the picture after missing out on the March double header. An update on O'Neill's thinking as regards Stoke duo Marc Wilson and Shay Given will also be on the agenda as they may have to use the training ground to prove their wellbeing.

The Ireland manager has stated that he will confirm his final 23 on the weekend after the Dutch encounter so there is a window of opportunity there for players to put up their hand for inclusion.

Bournemouth and Ireland midfielder Harry Arter

When Harry Arter (above) was ruled out of the Switzerland and Slovakia games, both O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane suggested that the Holland match would be very important for the Bournemouth midfielder.

Former Ireland winger Jason McAteer believes that O'Neill should stick with the squad that got him to France, although he thinks Arter should be brought along to sample the experience even if he doesn't make the 23.

"I would take him in a non-playing capacity," he said. "I would take a few of the players who are on the brink, the younger lads, because they are going to be the next generation. To take them and give them that experience, that would fuel them to succeed."

Arter would have loftier ambitions than that, particularly given his Premier League status compared to some of the alternatives, but McAteer thinks international experience will score higher in the management's thinking.

He envisages that his former team-mates Given and Robbie Keane will be part of the panel.

Robbie Keane is the "'39th most anticipated player" to go to the Euros

Keane (above) has come to terms with a role as an impact sub and McAteer expects Given will accept it if he has to play second fiddle to Darren Randolph.

"I spoke to Shay earlier this year. He was in Qatar getting a bit of treatment and we spent a bit of time together," said McAteer, who was attending the finals of the SPAR FAI Primary Schools 5s at the Aviva Stadium.

"He is fully focused on going to the Euros. I don't think he has got it in his mind to play, but he is focused on being there in some capacity."

McAteer might view Arter as an option for the longer term, yet he is unsure about the intentions of the management team.

"I don't think Roy will be around at the end of the tournament," he said. "He will want to venture out into club football again and give it another go.

"There are two things Martin will look at. Has he taken it as far as he can? His job description is getting them to a tournament and he has done that, so he has been a success and can go out on a high."

Meanwhile, Sweden manager Erik Hamren last night named his 23-man squad for the finals. The main talking point was the inclusion of Hamburg defender Albin Ekdal who is currently in hospital with a cut in his back which he picked up by falling in a nightclub after his employers' avoided relegation from the Bundesliga.

Sweden squad -Carlgren (AIK Stockholm), Isaksson (Kasimpasa), Olsen (Copenhagen), Augustinsson (Copenhagen), Granqvist (Krasnodar), Jansson (Torino), Johansson (Copenhagen), Lustig (Celtic), Lindelof (Benfica), Olsson (Norwich), Durmaz (Olympiakos), Ekdal (Hamburg), Forsberg (Leipzig), Hiljemark (Palermo), Kallstrom (Grasshoppers Zurich), Larsson (Sunderland), Lewicki (Malmo), Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Zengin (Trabzonspor), Berg (Panathinaikos), Guidetti (Celtic Vigo), Ibrahimovic (PSG), Kujovic (IFK Norrkoping).

Irish Independent

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