Saturday 15 December 2018

No Irish return on the horizon for Gibson and McGeady

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and is assistant Roy Keane.
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and is assistant Roy Keane.
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has not quite closed the door on an international comeback for Aiden McGeady and Darron Gibson.

But it's clear that he is in no hurry to open it up either. The Ireland manager was in Cork yesterday, enthused by the prospect of a full return to working duty in a busy autumn.

And the Derryman was determined to stress the positives of a slightly underwhelming start to the campaign across the water for a number of his squad.

However, it's unlikely that McGeady and Gibson will have much of a part to play in a schedule that consists of four UEFA Nations League games and two friendlies barring a dramatic change in their circumstances.

As teens, they were tipped for the top when they broke through at top clubs but the thirtysomethings have endured a year to forget.

Preferred

McGeady (32) is out of the equation at Sunderland following their relegation at League One and not expected to figure for them in the forthcoming campaign with a move away his preferred option.

Gibson (30) has been given a chance at Wigan after he was shown the door by Sunderland for off-the-field indiscretions.

The duo also had an unhappy spell on the books of Everton around the same time and, ultimately, their international manager believes they have to bear some responsibility for their current plight - much as fitness issues have plagued the pair.

McGeady's struggles are a particular bugbear for O'Neill given he worked with the skilled winger when he broke through at Celtic and has given him plenty of opportunities with Ireland.

The reference point is always his brace in Tbilisi back in 2014 in O'Neill's first competitive game in charge. Alas, the fourth anniversary is next month.

"You can't live on that forever," said the 66-year-old, delivering a strong enough hint that McGeady faces a battle to get the eight caps he needs to make centurion status.

He will not be considered for next month's double-header with Wales and Poland.

"Obviously I'd a lot of faith in Aiden's natural talent and those two goals in Tbilisi," said O'Neill, "You have to pass on from those things although those goals were as important as any we'd scored on the way to qualifying for that tournament.

"But you've got to keep doing it and the very best players with longevity can overcome injuries and obstacles and setbacks and fight back again.

"They shouldn't let these setbacks affect them so badly that they stop producing.

"Darron hasn't been properly fit in my mind and the truth is that I would probably say the same about Aiden."

O'Neill did speak to Gibson when a second drink driving incident brought down the curtain on his Sunderland career.

"I spoke to him to give him a bit of support," he said. "I see he's playing now. It's always been a fitness battle with Darron, forget about what's happened outside of football.

"Each year that goes past where you don't possess that natural fitness you should do. Those injuries tend to catch up with you.

"The days when he looked a real fit and athletic type with Man United ... we've passed on from that."

O'Neill has other injury concerns with next month in mind. Strikers Scott Hogan (groin) and Seán Maguire (hamstring) are sidelined with the latter's recurring problems a worry.

He is not convinced that Burnley's Robbie Brady will be back, while James McCarthy still has a way to go.

However, a passport has come through for Preston's Callum Robinson so he should be available to play if selected.

l Details on the new FAI season tickets are available at www.faiseasontickets.ie

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