Tuesday 20 February 2018

Damien Delaney needs injuries for Euro chance - O'Neill

Damien Delaney
Damien Delaney
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has indicated that he would need to suffer a spate of injuries in the defensive department before considering Damien Delaney as an option for Euro 2016.

It was reported over the weekend that Corkman is open to ending his self-imposed exile from international football, with Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew suggesting that the 34-year-old was ready '"to do the right thing".

Delaney released a statement last August in which he said that he wasn't the future, in addition to denying O'Neill's assertion that he had sought guarantees about a place in his side. But the Ireland manager again explained last night that the issue dates back to the summer tour of America at the start of his reign.

"We had a trip and Damien played in the match before that, the Turkey game, and I think Damien felt he was never going to be the first choice at the time and declined to go to America," said O'Neill, speaking as a guest on TV3's Champions League coverage.

"That didn't augur too well. Whatever he says about it, he said he would make himself available if he had a decent chance of getting into the squad or into the team. I wasn't in a position to make those decisions - I couldn't guarantee anybody in the side. We went our separate ways at that time."

O'Neill refused to close the door on a comeback, however, even if it was attached with the caveat that existing squad members would have to suffer misfortune.

As it stands, John O'Shea, Richard Keogh, Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson are the leading candidates to travel in Delaney's preferred position having featured at different points across the campaign. Wilson is currently sidelined but there are no fears about his availability with a view to France. The others have endured mixed fortunes at club level this term.

"Damien has had an excellent season at Crystal Palace," stressed O'Neill, before adding, "He's on the wrong side of 30 and hasn't played that many competitive games for Ireland through his career but I have to say. . . the way we are with centre-halves. . . if we got a few more injuries. I certainly couldn't rule out anything."

Questions about the make-up of his 23-man squad are likely to dominate all media outings for the 63-year-old between now and the summer.

He repeated his plans to experiment in the March games with Switzerland and Slovakia, while acknowledging the campaign regulars would be "hard to budge".

Irish Independent

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