Friday 23 February 2018

Eunan O'Kane in, Grealish out as Martin O'Neill names provisional squad for crucial September qualifiers

Eunan O'Kane
Eunan O'Kane

Eunan O'Kane has been called into the Ireland squad for the first time as Martin O'Neill named a 37-man provisional squad for the vital European Championship qualifiers next month.

As reported by earlier today, there is no place for Aston Villa teenager Jack Grealish after he asked O'Neill for more time to decide on his international future.

While O'Kane, who played for Bournemouth against Liverpool at Anfield last night, wins his first senior call up, there is also good news for Adam Rooney and Alan Judge who have both been named in O'Neill's panel.

Ireland play Gibraltar in Faro on September 4 followed by Georgia in the Aviva Stadium three days later in two must-win games.

"The situation with Jack is that I had a conversation with him and his father a week or 10 days ago. I thought it was pretty fruitful and Jack - I think he will decide very very shortly," said O'Neill.

"Obviously it’s a big decision for him, he will play obviously more often for us, he’s a very good talent and England naturally, I think, would qualify for more competitions than we would do but it’s a decision he has to give consideration to.

"This is not something for overnight, this will take him for the rest of his career at international level so I can understand that. He and his father agreed that it’s about time they were going to do something about. Fine, if he’s worth waiting for that in that sense, not necessarily for me but for the future of ourselves then so be it. He’s got age on his side and a very decent talent."

O'Neill had high praise for new-boy O'Kane.

"Young O’Kane played last night, did very well, saw him a couple of times last season but eventually when Bournemouth settled down to what they would consider their first team lineout, Harry Arter and Surman were people who were in front of him. I thought he did really fine in the game and it will give him a big boost to have played there at Anfield."

O'Neill added that he is very pleased with the development of Ciaran Clark.

"I’m very pleased with his development. When I was at Aston Villa, he was the captain of the youths, I gave him his debut against Fulham and he did really fine.

"I possibly thought at one stage of the other, would he play regularly in the Aston Villa side at centre half? We had some decent players at that time. He’s overcome a few niggling injuries that lasted a bit longer. He’s properly fit touch wood and I’m really pleased to see him starting the season pretty decently.

"John O’Shea on the other hand will be disappointed, he’s fit, he hasn’t played in the games and that’s a disappointment. It’s nice to see Ciaran Clark back from injury and playing in the side. This is, in terms of fitness, a bigger concern than it would be for sometime in March."

Speaking at today's press conference at the FAI headquarters, O’Neill added: “These are two very important games in our qualifying campaign and we are looking forward to them. The players are all now back in action with their respective clubs and will be ready for these games.

“We will be training at the new FAI National Training Centre in preparation for the trip to Faro to take on Gibraltar and the home game against Georgia at Aviva Stadium. The facilities are very impressive and we look forward to making this our training base for all future international camps.”

FULL SQUAD: David Forde, Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, Darren Randolph, Rob Elliot, Richard Keogh, Marc Wilson, Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, John O’Shea, Alex Pearce, Ciaran Clark, Paul McShane, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward, Greg Cunningham, Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan, Eunan O’Kane, Aiden McGeady, James McClean, Alan Judge, Robbie Brady, Anthony Pilkington, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Anthony Stokes, David McGoldrick, Adam Rooney, Simon Cox.

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