Sunday 8 December 2019

Defectors on full view for O'Neill in spying trip

John Fallon

NORTHERN IRELAND boss Michael O'Neill will get to see what he's missing when he returns to Tallaght Stadium tonight for Ireland's U-21 friendly against Denmark (7.30).

The former Shamrock Rovers chief and his coach Stephen Robinson will attend ostensibly to spy on UEFA U-21 group opponents Denmark ahead of Northern Ireland's qualifier in September.

Still, the presence of debutant Eunan O'Kane in the Irish line-up along with fellow Derryman Shane Duffy won't be pleasing on the eye for O'Neill.

The former Airtricity League-winning manager made it a priority of his when appointed as Northern Ireland boss in December to try stem the cross-border flow of young talent.

Highly-rated midfielder O'Kane may have fled the nest prior to O'Neill's arrival but efforts are ongoing into persuading another Foylesider, Derry City striker Patrick McEleney, to switch back to the North.

Almost a year after expressing his interest in changing allegiance, Torquay United midfielder O'Kane will wear the Republic's colours for the first time.

Ireland manager Noel King has vowed to also blood Sunderland's Cork-born defender John Egan as he broadens his options for next Monday's crucial UEFA Championship qualifier against group leaders Italy in Sligo.

Ireland U-21 (probable) -- I McLoughlin (MK Dons); M Connolly (Unattached), S Duffy (Everton), J Egan (Sunderland), G Cunningham (Manchester City); J Hendrick (Derby County), R Towell (Celtic), E O'Kane (Torquay United); A White (Leeds United), J Collins (Shrewsbury Town), R Brady (Manchester United).

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