Saturday 21 July 2018

New dawn beckons as O'Neill hints at old guard farewells

Darragh Lenihan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Darragh Lenihan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has hinted that a summer farewell is on the cards for a clutch of Ireland senior players who have yet to confirm their long-term intentions.

The trip to Turkey later this month is about saying hello to a variety of new faces with eight uncapped players in the 30-man provisional squad.

Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy have already retired from service, while John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan are expected to follow suit.

Jon Walters is injured at the moment and his intentions are unclear. Aiden McGeady is not part of the Turkey panel.

O'Neill refused to discuss specific cases, and instead indicated he had something in mind. "There's something I would like to announce later on, but not today," he said.

When asked if the USA's visit to Dublin on June 2 could function as a send-off for some of his old guard, O'Neill replied: "I will have a certain thought about that. I'll have to talk some players."

For now, the mind is on Turkey. In addition to Declan Rice, there are first calls for Blackburn duo Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams, Manchester United goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara and Sheffield United defender Enda Stevens.

Rice and O'Hara have trained with the group before and will come back from Antalya to play for the Irish U-21 side in their European qualifier with Azerbaijan on March 27.

Lenihan is just back from a lenghthy injury lay-off to join Williams in helping Blackburn's attempt to escape League One.

For Stevens, the call-up is a reward for a circuitous journey to the English second tier.

The ex-Shamrock Rovers left-back moved to Aston Villa after the Hoops' Europa League run in 2011 but dropped down the leagues before turning things around and earning a move to Sheffield United last summer.

Reading's Liam Kelly has been unable to accept previous calls so comes into contention for a debut. Wolves' Matt Doherty and Aston Villa's Scott Hogan have been in squads without getting capped. In-form Preston duo Alan Browne and Sean Maguire are targeting second outings.

Shane Long is the only outfield player aged 30 and over and O'Neill admitted it's a "big opportunity" for Maguire and Hogan with strikers scarce.

Browne was given a strong mention too as the 22-year-old has starred for Preston of late with the club's hierarchy pushing his case with O'Neill.

His club-mate Greg Cunningham is also included and is in competition with Stevens and Williams at left-back with Stephen Ward given the week off. Seamus Coleman is back on the list a year after his leg-break horror.

Irish Independent

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