Friday 24 January 2020

Daryl Murphy backs Premier League class to boost Ireland's cause

'Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy could start his first competitive game since the 2-1 loss to France at Euro 2016'. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
'Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy could start his first competitive game since the 2-1 loss to France at Euro 2016'. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Newcastle United striker Daryl Murphy believes that the infusion of some Premier League class will give the Ireland side a much-needed boost ahead of the two-game series which pulls a curtain down on the season.

Ireland take on Uruguay today in a Lansdowne Road friendly (6.0pm), with only three survivors in the squad from the side which was beaten 3-2 at home by an Edinson Cavani-inspired Uruguay outfit in Dublin back in 2011.

That was a bruising experience for the Trapattoni-era Ireland team and the current crop are also carrying bruises, from Friday morning's 3-1 loss to Mexico in New Jersey. Martin O'Neill was surprisingly upbeat after that game, even though Ireland were run ragged for long spells by a vastly superior Mexican team, but he will make wholesale changes to his side.

Fringe players like John Egan, Daryl Horgan, Conor Hourihane, Callum O'Dowda and David McGoldrick, who all started in New Jersey, will take a step back as the Premier League players, who were not asked to travel to the US, come back onto the stage.

"Obviously we will need to play better against Austria than we did against Mexico the other night, but we have time now to get back to work and get some training sessions in. We have other lads from the squad to come back in so we will be ready," said Daryl Murphy, who led the line against Mexico and may be asked to do so again in the Uruguay and Austria matches, given the absence of Shane Long due to injury.

"The lads coming in now, the lads who missed the Mexico match, bring a lot of experience with them. Uruguay is a tough game for us but we are at home and we have big players back in the squad.

"The Mexico game was all about fitness. We are disappointed about the result as we wanted to go and win it but it's all gearing up for the big one next Sunday - Austria.

"The manager was disappointed on Friday as no one wants to lose a game - the players don't want to be losing 3-1 - but we take it on the chin and go again," added Murphy.

Players looked ring-rusty against Mexico, to be expected as some had been out of favour at their clubs (Darren Randolph, Eunan O'Kane) or injured (Shane Duffy) even without the month-long gap since the Championship season finished up a month ago.

Murphy (34) had a tough time at Newcastle, despite their title success, as he started only seven matches for the Magpies, and lacked game-time but he tried his best to stay in shape.

"The Championship players finished up early so we needed to work on our fitness and the Mexico game was a good exercise from that point of view," said the Waterford native.

"In my case I kept ticking away after the club season ended. I had a week off but you can't really take a rest at this level, so I had the few days' break but was back into it then, training in Fota Island and then the training and match in the US. It was a matter of keeping ready."

Ready for action if needed today. With Long absent, O'Neill's options up front are limited and his team selection, against Uruguay and also against Austria, could be dictated by the role he sees for Jon Walters, as a front man or wide player, so Murphy could start his first competitive game since the 2-1 loss to France at Euro 2016.

"I know Shane Long is out but I am not sure what role the manager sees for me," Murphy admitted. "He has other players who can do well. I have to try and stay sharp over the next week."

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