Sunday 17 November 2019

Rob Elliot targeting Irish goalkeeping spot

Ireland goalkeeper Rob Elliot
Ireland goalkeeper Rob Elliot

John Fallon

Rob Elliot has his eye on the Ireland No 1 spot for next month’s “tough” Euro play-offs after catching a break at Newcastle United.

Although the 29-year-old’s three caps were earned in friendlies, he’ll likely be the only available goalkeeper coming into the two-legged decider against Bosnia and Herzegovina with current Premier League experience.

Elliot played for the Magpies in Sunday’s 6-2 win over Norwich City and is expected to keep the role for this weekend’s Tyne and Wear derby against Sunderland.

His chance to shine came about following a season-ending knee injury to regular custodian Tim Krul on international duty for Holland last week.

The Dutchman’s back-up stopper, Karl Darlow, is also sidelined due to a foot problem, meaning Elliot is set for a string of top-flight games all the way up to the next international window.

With Shay Given and Darren Randolph unlikely to progress from their status as bench-warmers for Stoke City and West Ham United respectively, Elliot is in pole position to claim a berth which Martin O’Neill has struggled to fill on a permanent basis during his two years in charge.

"Martin O'Neill has told me a few times that I need to be playing and it's totally understandable,” said the Londoner, who declared for Ireland as a teen through his father’s family from Cork.

“I've been trying to get opportunities to play and now I've got one.

"I have to make sure I maintain it and, hopefully in the long run, that will help me stay in the Ireland squad as well.

"Firstly, I have to be doing well for Newcastle. Because if I don't do well then I won't get a chance for my country."

Looking ahead to the pair of fixtures against the Bosnians, Elliot reckons Edin Dzeko’s side are formidable though the sequence of games on November 13 and 17 pleases him.

"Bosnia is a really tough draw for us," he said.

"The big positive for us is that we've got the second leg at home. Hopefully we can use to our advantage.

“On our day we can beat anyone - we've proved that with our recent results.

"We recently beat Germany which goes to show that we're a top quality team with a great team spirit.

"We've just got to go and believe in ourselves, give it our best and hopefully we will get to the finals in France next summer."

Meanwhile, Stephen Quinn will continue to be unavailable to O’Neill. The Reading midfielder missed the recent double-header against Germany and Poland due a knee injury which has since required an operation. Quinn isn’t expected back for his club until early 2016.

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