Ireland’s build-up to the Euros starts kicking into high gear today, when the squad gathers at the National Training Centre for their first session of the week ahead of Friday’s friendly against the Netherlands.
Tomorrow, the public will be in attendance for an open training session at the Aviva and on Saturday, Martin O’Neill is expected to name his Euros squad of 23 before preparations shift to Ireland’s pre-tournament training camp at Fota Island in Cork the following Monday.
The centrepiece of that week comes the next day, Tuesday, May 31, with the farewell friendly against Belarus at Turner’s Cross.
The squad then stays in Cork until the Friday and, after a weekend break, reconvenes the following Monday for two more days at Abbotstown before they fly out to their Euros base in Versailles on Wednesday, June 8.
Five days later, on June 13, Ireland’s Euro 2016 finally kicks off with their opening Group E game against Sweden at the Stade de France.
Meanwhile, former international Kevin Kilbane reckons that, when it comes to his starting 11, O’Neill could have a big decision to make between Robbie Brady and Stephen Ward, suggesting that Ireland “haven’t had a natural left-back since Harty (Ian Harte), 10 years ago.”
Says Kilbane: “Robbie will definitely play (somewhere in the team), that’s the thing. I’ve seen Stephen play a few times this season for Burnley and he’s looking a lot more comfortable now as a left back, maybe supporting from behind, which Martin might want in certain games. But if we have to go and get at sides, that might be when you look at Robbie Brady playing left back and you can maybe play someone more attack-minded ahead of him.
“What I used to do when I was playing was try to play to position and it probably helped the way that Trap played. He didn’t want me getting forward so I wasn’t really going to get exposed at times. Whereas I think Martin is maybe trying to play more expansive and try to get full-backs into games. That might not play into either lad’s hands. From an attacking point of view, great, but defensively, it’s about how you get back into position — and that’s where we could conceivably struggle, as they’re not natural left-backs.”
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