Wednesday 13 December 2017

Stephen Ireland issue top of agenda as Martin O'Neill gets squad in order

Stephen Ireland could yet play his way into Martin O'Neill's Ireland squad if he finds his form again at Stoke City
Stephen Ireland could yet play his way into Martin O'Neill's Ireland squad if he finds his form again at Stoke City
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARTIN O'NEILL will this morning name an enlarged provisional squad for Ireland's summer internationals, with the status of Stephen Ireland likely to be at the top of the agenda.

There have been mixed messages about the prospect the 27-year-old returning to the fold, with assistant Roy Keane admitting that O'Neill had spoken with the Stoke player. However, there has been no definitive announcement from the player that he is ready to return.

Ireland's summer schedule consists of a friendly with Turkey in Dublin on May 25, a trip to London to take on Italy on May 31 and then a US jaunt for games with Costa Rica in Philadelphia on June 6 and Portugal in New York on June 10.

O'Neill will pick a big panel to prepare for a variety of eventualities. He has players involved with all four clubs in the Championship play-offs, with the final set for May 24.

The Derryman is also conscious that certain players have had long, draining seasons, so it's entirely possible that he will shuffle the pack for the US leg of the trip.

RELUCTANT

While O'Neill has stressed that he is reluctant to throw around caps like confetti, he is scouring options with a view to the future and that could open the door for the likes of Watford's Sean Murray, Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane and also Aston Villa teenager Jack Grealish, who made his Premier League debut as a substitute on Wednesday night.

QPR's Richard Dunne has already confirmed that he intends to skip the end-of-season exercise to rest after a hectic campaign. Captain Robbie Keane may also have a curtailed involvement due to MLS commitments.

O'Neill will cut down his squad before the group meets up in Dublin on May 22.

One player certain to be included is Seamus Coleman, who has been voted Everton's Player of the Year as well as Players' Player of the Year.

"Seamus was the winner pretty easily for me," said centre-half Sylvain Distin. "He's been the most consistent and the progress he has made in all areas of his game has been amazing."

Coleman was humbled by the recognition and said that he could never have imagined standing on the stage after joining Everton for just £60,000 from Sligo Rovers in 2009.

"Goals were probably a part of my game that I was missing, but the gaffer has encouraged me to get forward," said Coleman, who praised the part manager Roberto Martinez has played in his development. "I'm forever learning under him and I'm looking forward to more."

Irish Independent

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