Thursday 26 April 2018

World Cup diary: O'Hara joins in senior training

Kieran O'Hara
Kieran O'Hara
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Manchester United back-up goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara was training with the Ireland squad yesterday.

O'Hara is in Dublin this week with Noel King's U-21 squad but was invited to join in with the seniors with goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh calling the shots as he worked with Darren Randolph, Colin Doyle and Rob Elliot.

Martin O'Neill made his way over to the 21-year-old Manchester lad to introduce himself and thank the youngster for coming in.

Earlier this year, West Ham's Declan Rice was brought to Cork to train with the first team and appeared to take confidence from it.

O'Neill was criticised at the beginning of his tenure for not doing the same with Jack Grealish. It may be a coincidence but there now appears to be a willingness to throw the door open.

It also backs up the argument that O'Neill wants to stay around for another campaign - as a manager on the way out wouldn't be too perturbed about the long game.

All eyes on Belgium

Gareth Bale's injury is good news for Ireland but the second-place conundrum means that injury problems for Bosnia, Greece, Slovakia and then Scotland would also be helpful this week.

There are two groups where Ireland need two results to go their way in order to be sure that six points from the final two matches lands a play-off.

In Group H, Ireland need the already-qualified Belgium to win in Bosnia. But Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini are major doubts and Kevin De Bruyne was amongst a posse to sit out training yesterday.

We might be looking at Group F - where a Scotland win over Slovakia tomorrow and then a home win or draw when the Scots visit Slovenia on Sunday is needed for salvation.

Quote of the day

"I have got a few tweets saying Aidan O'Brien is flying. What's going on, it's a Wednesday, I ain't doing nothing, it's the horse trainer. I have no interest in the horses or gambling."

- Ireland newcomer Aiden O'Brien, the Millwall attacker, is used to being confused with a slightly more famous namesake. It's crucial to note the spelling distinction in his name. Keiren Westwood's unique Christian name still trips up experienced reporters.

Number of the day

12 Competitive games that Gareth Bale has missed since he made his Wales debut in 2006. Wales won two of those matches, drew five and lost five. It's a poor record although the Real Madrid star has only been absent for one competitive outing in four years and that was the 1-1 draw with Serbia last June where they led and impressed.

Irish Independent

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