O'Neill challenges Irish new boys to stake claim
Martin O'Neill has urged his three new striking options to seize the chance in training to put themselves in contention for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Moldova.
Championship trio Scott Hogan (Aston Villa), Sean Maguire (Preston) and Aiden O'Brien (Millwall) had their first Irish training session yesterday ahead of the Aviva Stadium encounter.
Ireland need to win that game and Monday's concluding Group D fixture in Wales to put themselves in contention for a World Cup play-off.
Jon Walters is out for the rest of the campaign and scoring threats James McClean and Robbie Brady are suspended for the Moldova match.
With David McGoldrick also carrying a knock and Kevin Doyle retiring, Shane Long and Daryl Murphy are the frontrunners to lead the line.
But O'Neill insists that Hogan, Maguire and O'Brien have three days in training to stake a claim for some kind of role.
"In the last couple of years, we've got to know all the other players and I know what they're capable of doing," said the Derryman. "It's just a matter of them getting through a couple of days' preparation, set-pieces and a bit of motivational work.
"But if they are younger players who I have not seen as much - I have watched them play but not up close - now for them these (training) days do become pretty important. I think there is an incentive for them to impress. Sometimes you can take a chance."
O'Neill will also contemplate whether to risk James McCarthy who was an unexpected presence at Abbotstown. He trained with Everton on Friday after working his way back from a knee problem that has kept him out since July.
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Ronald Koeman gave the impression last week that he expected McCarthy to be sent back to his club once he reported for assessment.
But the player has told O'Neill that he doesn't want to be ruled out and the manager says he is willing to monitor the situation - a development that has the ingredients for another row between the bosses.
"He looks pretty good and he has had no ill effects for 10-12 days," says O'Neill, who feels Everton should be pleased if a rusty player benefits from the trip and even gets some minutes.
Midfielder Harry Arter is expected to take some part in training today as he manages a calf issue.