Monday 21 May 2018

Martin O'Neill signs Ireland contract and names two uncapped players in his squad for World Cup qualifiers

Martin O'Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane
Martin O'Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Marko Djurica/Reuters
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have finally committed their future to the Republic of Ireland by signing new contracts with the FAI that will take their tenure up to the end of the World Cup 2018 campaign.

And O'Neill says that they have stayed because they represent Ireland's best chance of making the finals.

The 64-year-old stated at the beginning of his squad announcement for the October qualifiers with Georgia and Moldova that he had finally put pen to paper on the contract that was agreed before Euro 2016. He confirmed that Keane and the rest of his staff were staying on and repeated his view that the drawn out saga was much ado about nothing.

Questions were raised about the possibility of clubs making a move when a deal wasn't formally signed, but O'Neill affirmed that he was always committed to the project - and added that contracts weren't of too much value in modern football anyway.

"I'm not concerned about perception. I'm too experienced to worry about what perception is," said O'Neill, when asked if he was hedging his bets.

"I've signed the contract, and was delighted to have shaken hands on it some months ago. Usually when I say that it's going to happen, it's going to happen.

"It wasn't a matter of fumbling around looking for something else or changing the contract. But if something happened to me, then you end up not having a contract. I'm talking in terms of health or something. That might be the only issue. (with the delay) In terms of agreeing something, I had no reason to change.

"My own personal view, I've proved it, is that I think Ireland's best chance of qualification for the World Cup in Russia lies with myself and Roy Keane. It's done and dusted now. I'm delighted he (Keane) is coming and wants to do it.

"Who knows what happens the next day in a day and age when contracts really don't mean anything. They haven't for the last 25 years in football.

"I want to be around, I want to try and qualify. And it's a long process again. It was the same when we started off in Georgia a couple of years ago. The best chance is with myself and Roy at the helm."

Barnsley midfielder Conor Hourihane and Falkirk keeper Danny Rogers - who is on loan from Aberdeen - are the two new names in his provisional squad. There are recalls for Colorado's Kevin Doyle, Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes and Birmingham's Stephen Gleeson.

Corkman Hourihane was named Championship Player of the Month for August after a stellar start to the season which included three goals and five assists. Former U21 international Rogers is selected ahead of his Dundalk namesake Gary and Portsmouth's David Forde.

There was no room in the squad for form pair Scott Hogan and Daryl Horgan.

O'Neill indicated that Salford-born Hogan has yet to fully commit to Ireland. He has scored 13 goals in his last 15 appearances for Brentford and could be a major asset in a problem position.

Hogan has said that he will be undergoing a rehab programme during the international break as part of his recovery from two long term knee injuries but the Derryman made it clear that the player is still unsure about his international intentions.

"I have spoken to his agent and I think that he has a very open mind," he said. "He was showing interest but like everything else, he has a number of options. I've seen him a number of times and he's an exceptionally good goalscorer.

"These things are always up to the player and that was exactly the case with young (Jack) Grealish. He wasn't born in this country. But I wouldn't have made contact with him if I hadn't shown an interest."

O'Neill said that Horgan, the star of the Dundalk side that has qualified for the Europa League, would have featured in his provisional squad if it wasn't for his club's crowded fixture schedule.

The Irish boss asked a member of FAI staff to send him Dundalk's fixture list to get a handle on their schedule.

Ireland play Georgia on October 6 and then travel to Moldova for an October 9 showdown. Dundalk are due to host Sligo Rovers on October 7 and may have to fit in another match earlier that week depending on whether their FAI Cup semi final with Derry City goes to a replay.

"Horgan has done exceptionally well.  In normal circumstances, he would have been in the provisional squad, without a doubt," said O'Neill, "A number of the other players did very well in Holland.

"I am in constant touch, with Stephen (Kenny), who is a very busy manager at this minute, they have issues with fixtures because of their success. It's fantastic on one hand and a pain on the other hand. I have to speak to Stephen.

"I think if any of their players get into the squad, I think it's probably a major plus for the club itself. Dundalk are heavily involved until Christmas time. That is fantastic. Who knows. I'll speak to Stephen. Any involvement of any players, I'm sure they would be delighted with it."

Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Keiren Westwood, Danny Rogers.

Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce, Paul McShane, John O'Shea, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ward.

Midfielders: Aiden McGeady, James McClean, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Conor Hourihane, Harry Arter, Eunan O'Kane, Stephen Gleeson, Callum O'Dowda, Robbie Brady, Wes Hoolahan,  Anthony Pilkington, Jonathan Hayes.

Strikers: Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle.

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