'I think it's really great for him to get into the Premier League' - O'Neill excited about Shane Duffy's potential
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has confirmed that he will hold a small training camp in Fota Island in Cork from May 23-25 to boost the fitness of the Championship members of his squad whose regular season finishes tomorrow.
That contingent will also form the bulk of the side for the Mexico and Uruguay games, with tuning up their fitness again the priority heading into those fixtures.
One player who should be present is Brighton defender Shane Duffy, who sat out the final part of his club’s successful promotion charge with the broken metatarsal that ruined him out of the Welsh draw.
O’Neill is an admirer of the 25-year-old and still feels there is more to come from a player who has progressed during his tenure.
“I think it’s really great for him to get into the Premier League,” said O’Neill.
“I like him a lot. I think there is a lot of improvement still in him. When I took this job, I remember seeing him on loan from Everton to Yeovil. And it wouldn’t have been the best time in the world for him.
“Anything straightforward, heading it and that, he was very strong. But he needed to turn more quickly.
“Then I thought that I once went to see a game between Scunthorpe and Doncaster when I was manager of Wycombe. And there was a centre-half playing for Scunthorpe who on the day was useless, called Matty Elliott. And I ended up buying him, though not from Scunthorpe, and Matty ended up being sensational at Leicester.
“Shane had attributes: he was strong in the air, he was comfortable with the ball at his feet, which is exactly what Matty Elliott had. I saw some things in him so you keep an eye on him anyway.
“But the most important thing anyway was to actually get out and play more regularly, which happened at Blackburn and then Brighton which was great.
“Overall I’ve been very impressed with him. He just needs more awareness, which he knows himself – like the goal against Moldova where both he and Ciaran Clark got caught out.
“I’m not saying Shane is ever going to be Usain Bolt or anything like that, but you can improve your speed and those are the things he’s trying to do, and his attitude for when he comes into the camp is very good.”
O’Neill, who was speaking at the launch of the SportsDirect.com FAI Summer Soccer Schools, did touch on his problems at the other end of the pitch, with a shortage of up-and-coming strikers.
He praised Cillian Sheridan for his goalscoring form in Poland and also spoke in positive terms about in-form Cork City striker Sean Maguire, but he also stressed that he wants players to earn call-ups rather than throwing around caps too freely.
“We had the opportunity to play some players who have been in and around the squad but haven’t really participated that much, after the Wales game,” he said, with a nod to the 1-0 friendly reverse to Iceland where several debutants featured.
“I’m not so sure that it (summer friendlies) is an ideal time for trying out very young players who have never been involved in the squad, for the simple reason that it’s a lead-up to the World Cup qualifying game, which is most important.”
Meanwhile, the 65-year-old laughed off speculation linking No 2 Roy Keane with a move to Australian team Melbourne City.
“Personally the sooner he goes the better,” said O’Neill, with a smile. “Australia? I would want it a wee bit further.
“No, honestly, I didn’t know anything about it. I was speaking to him last night for a moment or two and he would have mentioned it to me.”