Monday 22 January 2018

'I totally refute that': O'Neill hits back at Koeman's comments in James McCarthy fitness row

Martin O'Neill hits back at Ronald Koeman's James McCarthy comments
Martin O'Neill hits back at Ronald Koeman's James McCarthy comments
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill says that strong performances on the European stage encouraged him to name Dundalk duo Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle in his squad for the World Cup qualifier with Austria on Saturday week.

But the Irish boss stressed that he will wait until after the weekend to confirm if they have made the final cut.

Read more: Rewarded at last! Dundalk's Daryl Horgan gets first Ireland call-up in squad to face Austria

O'Neill has selected a 35-man panel and tends to chop it down just before the squad convenes in Dublin so in-form winger Horgan and centre half Boyle both face an anxious wait.

The 64-year-old said they deserved the recognition but knows they have a lot on their mind at the moment with a tough Europa League test against Zenit St Petersburg in Russia tomorrow and the FAI Cup final with Cork City at the Aviva on Sunday.

"Horgan would have been included in the squad the last time, but they were playing a lot of games and had matches either side of our games," said O'Neill this morning.

"I've been impressed by the way they've played. They've competed very strongly in European football. It's still a step up to playing international football, which is supposed to be the creme de la creme. We're playing against top class opposition every time we play.

"It's a step up from playing in the Championship to come and play international football - over the last couple of years, I've experienced that. The players have had to come to get themselves to another level and that's difficult.

"It's a difficult decision to make, to see where you are playing and the standard you are playing at. I don't see the German team speaking about players from second or third division leagues. For us, it's a bit different. They've acquitted themselves brilliantly in games and their attitude alone is fantastic.

"You would be surprised at the progress they've made. But naturally it's a very pleasant surprise. One would never know how someone might cope but have they deserved the opportunity; absolutely.

"I keep in contact with the manager (Stephen Kenny) and if the players are called upon... tomorrow evening is another big evening for them, the cup final on Sunday. They've plenty of things to look forward to before they entertain thoughts about anything else."

Shane Long was absent from O'Neill's panel with the manager confirming that the hamstring injury he suffered on Europa League duty for Southampton will definitely rule him out. Daryl Murphy is also unavailable, meaning that he is working off just four strikers - Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Adam Rooney and the fit again David McGoldrick. Brentford's Scott Hogan is still mulling over his international allegiances with O'Neill indicating his position will not become clear until after Christmas.

By contrast, his panel includes five goalkeepers with Bradford's Colin Doyle earning a recall. He won his only Irish cap under Steve Staunton in 2007.

Injury doubts John O'Shea, Stephen Ward, Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy are included and the presence of the latter will surely raise eyebrows at Everton. Ronald Koeman accused O'Neill of 'overloading' McCarthy by bringing him back from a groin problem to play against Georgia and Moldova last month. He then suffered a hamstring issue in training with Everton that placed his Austrian participation in jeopardy.

"James is improving day by day," said O'Neill. "If the game was this weekend he wouldn't make it. The following weekend I would say he'd be doubtful at this minute. Maybe he can get some proper training in. It's one of those where I'll leave him in provisional squad and see how things go. I would say he wouldn't make it this week.

"I totally refute (Koeman's comments) that too. I totally refute that too. I didn't get an opportunity to respond.  Remarkably he trained on the very day that the manager was bleating about him."

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