Ireland’s new management era has been a while in the making, so the Irish players will hardly be too put out by having to wait a day longer for their first ‘Top Of The Cops’ audition.
Such have been the complicated nature of the logistics surrounding the appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane that, contrary to usual practice in the week leading up to a Friday international, it will be now Tuesday, and not Monday as previously expected, before the players get to do their first training session in Malahide under the Derryman and his assistant.
However, for Richard Dunne this first opportunity to work under O’Neill will pass him by completely.
The veteran defender misses out on the games at home to Latvia on Friday and away to Poland in Poznan the following Tuesday, with the FAI stating yesterday he will remain at QPRduring the international window “as he continues his recovery programme from last season’s groin injury”.
Irish skipper Robbie Keane is named in the squad and will be fully expected to show his usual commitment to the cause by coming in for the dawn of the new era even allowing for the tight time-frame should his club LA Galaxy — currently one-up against Real Salt Lake going into tonight’s semi-final second leg in Utah — reach the Western Conference final.
In that case, they will be playing decisive games this Sunday and again on the 23rd, with Ireland’s matches taking place on the 15th and 19th. Last month, the FAI turned down a request from Galaxy manager Bruce Arena for Keane to return to the club for a game, since it would have meant him missing the match against Kazakhstan.
Crystal Palace have withdrawn defender Damian Delaney citing an ankle injury, while there is also no place for Hull’s Paul McShane in a squad which was whittled down by Noel King from his initial provisional list of some 40 players.
The bulk of the selection is retained from the panel which, in King’s role as caretaker manager, he picked for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan.
One enforced change, of course, is the absence of Darron Gibson who has just begun his long recovery after surgery on the serious knee injury he sustained in the win against Kazakhstan, with Stephen Quinn of Hull City among the midfield options bequeathed by King to O’Neill. There is also a return to the squad for Stephen Ward who has beenperforming impressively at Brighton, as well as a call-up for Alex Pearce of Reading. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot retains his place in the squad and winger Robbie Brady returns after his hernia operation Meanwhile, ahead of his grand unveiling in Dublin on Saturday, O’Neill has been elaborating on his feelings about taking the job.
“It’s a privilege to do it,” he said. “A job like this may not come round again for quite some considerable time. The Republic of Ireland have had some success — Jack Charlton was great, Mick McCarthy excellent, and (Giovanni) Trapattoni did very, very well indeed, and all stayed in the job for quite a number of years, so thatopportunity might not be afforded to anyone in the foreseeable future.”
West Brom striker Shane Long — who has been named in the latest squad — says the Irish players are ready to hit the ground running for the new management team.
“We are all on our toes, every single player in the Irish squad, and that’s not a bad thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, veteran Irish goalkeeper Shay Given last night suggested he might make himself available again for his country if the new management team wanted him. Given, who announced his international retirement after Euro 2012 - and then saw an offer to return ignored by Trapattoni - said last night: “if Martin or Roy wanted me I would have that conversation and see where it takes me.”
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