With the post-Robbie Keane era now fully under way, much attention will be paid to the strikers in Martin O’Neill’s latest squad announcement today and, in particular, whether he sees fit to include Brentford’s Scott Hogan who is currently joint-top scorer in the Championship with six goals this season.
O’Neill was at Griffin Park last weekend to see Hogan grab his first hat-trick for the Bees in a 5-0 demolition of Preston North End, a game in which Aiden McGeady featured for the losing side.
After the match, Brentford manager Dean Smith hailed Hogan’s performance as “magnificent”, adding yesterday that the player deserved to be linked with an international call-up.
The 24-year-old Salford-born Hogan qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents but this week insisted that his main focus — after recovering from a serious knee injury last season — is on helping Brentford get to the Premier League, even though his hot scoring streak has already attracted the interest of Swansea City among others.
“It’s important to be playing as many games for Brentford at the moment,” he said. “International honours are a big thing but there’s only one place I want to play my football at the minute and that is here.
“They look after me, monitor my fitness and everything. Due to that I’ve played every minute this season which is some going after what’s happened.”
Hogan, who is also eligible for England, hasn’t yet indicated which country he will declare for although, after Roy Keane went to see him play last season, he said: “If Roy Keane rang me up, I couldn’t say no to Roy Keane. He is one of my heroes.”
Back in May, O’Neill said Hogan was already very much in his thoughts although the manager chose not to select him in the run-up to Euro 2016.
“He has done very well and Roy was pretty impressed with him,” O’Neill said at the time.
“We have a number of players at this minute who would be in front of him. He’s coming back from injury as well, but definitely, he looks very, very good. I think [a call-up] might have been too early for this one, but he’s certainly in mind.”
Among the other contenders for a maiden call-up include Hogan’s Brentford teammate, John Egan.
The Corkman has been a revelation since joining the Championship club in the summer from Gillingham, the centre-back playing nine games and scoring three times.
Egan, who was making headway through the Sunderland ranks during O’Neill’s time in charge until a broken leg on loan at Bradford halted his progress, is pushing Alex Pearce for a spot in the squad.
Another candidate, albeit a long shot, is Daryl Horgan, the Dundalk winger whom Seamus Coleman believes possesses the quality to become an international player.
Ireland’s pursuit of Josh and Jacob Murphy appears over though after the Norwich City twins pledged their allegiance to England.
Winger Josh told the Eatern Daily Press: “We’ve heard the rumours and speculation but I don’t think we’ve got any Irish in us. There’s been enquiries but I doubt we can play. Our main focus is club football and if we get into England then we get into England.”
James McCarthy, who has resumed light training is the main injury worry for O’Neill as he names his squad in Dublin this morning for World Cup qualifiers at home to Georgia on October 6 and away to Moldova on October 9. Darron Gibson is also a doubt.
Georgia come to Lansdowne Road determined to get off the mark after last month’s narrow defeat to Austria. Spartak Moscow playmaker Jano Ananidze, who scored their goal in the 2-1 defeat in Tbilisi last month, will be available.
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