Saturday 15 December 2018

O'Neill admits striker gamble

Lack of proven scorers lies behind Ireland calls for newcomers Robinson and Burke

Dan Leavy tries to escape the attentions of Steff Evans and Rob Evans of Scarlets. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy tries to escape the attentions of Steff Evans and Rob Evans of Scarlets. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has acknowledged that the absence of established goalscorers has encouraged a gamble on rookies.

The Ireland manager has named Preston's Callum Robinson and in-form Shamrock Rovers attacker Graham Burke in his provisional squad for the end-of-season internationals.

New recruit Robinson is not eligible for the friendlies with France and USA as the paperwork for his switch from England is going through, so his inclusion will be limited to an exhibition match with Celtic for Scott Brown's testimonial.

Burke's involvement may be restricted to that game too with the former Aston Villa team-mate of Robinson rewarded for his League of Ireland rebirth.

However, Rovers have key league fixtures in Sligo the night before and against St Patrick's Athletic two days after Scotland so Hoops boss Stephen Bradley has said he will speak with O'Neill to see "how we can best accommodate each other".

O'Neill is willing to experiment with Jon Walters and Shane Long the only senior options. Seán Maguire and Scott Hogan were trialled in March, while Millwall's Aiden O'Brien is in the frame too.

"We do not have a Robbie Keane and we don't have anybody here at this minute that would be almost semi-guaranteed to get you a goal in important situations. That's where you say, we might as well have a look at these (options)," said O'Neill. "Burke has definitely got nice ability and it will be nice to see if he can progress. Callum is lightweight, he was at Villa and they didn't consider him good enough but he's scored a few goals at Preston. He's trying to go past a few players and, from that viewpoint, why not?

"Young Maguire can take people on and does have an eye for goal. Hogan is lacking a bit of confidence I think, he thought he was going to have a big, big season with Villa. I like him around the box, but he can do better with his hold-up. Jon Walters still wants to play and after Robbie would be next best in terms of scoring goals. Shane plays irregularly at club level and doesn't score the goals but we are still depending on him because he can stretch teams.

"That's what we have. It is a problem and it becomes a massive problem because all the good sides have boys who can score goals."

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