As endgame looms on Ireland’s Euro Group D qualification campaign, Martin O’Neill will be keen to focus today on the players available to him when he announces his provisional squad for the double-header against Germany and Poland.
Midfield mainstay Glenn Whelan and wideman James McClean are definitely out of the visit of the world champions to Dublin on October 8 while Jack Grealish isn’t expected to feature either in that game or the concluding trip to Poland four days later.
The Aston Villa attacker, who scored his first senior goal in Sunday’s Premier League defeat to Leicester City, has yet to confirm his allegiance either way to Ireland or England.
With O’Neill opting to name his squad earlier than usual, three weeks in advance, a definitive update on the player’s dilemma is not expected from the Derryman today.
What the manager is likely to supply is an indication as to the wellbeing of Seamus Coleman. Despite hobbling off at the weekend with hamstring trouble, his Everton boss Roberto Martinez has since sounded positive in his assessment of the injury and O’Neill is sure to have checked in with his regular right-back for a primary fitness report.
The Ireland boss will, as is his custom, select an enlarged 37-man panel with the plan to reduce that number ahead of the final squad assembling on October 4.
Adam Rooney, a casualty of the whittling-down process during the recent double-header against Gibraltar and Georgia, has subsequently further pressed his claims for a debut cap by netting against Celtic and Hamilton to help maintain the 100% to the campaign for SPL leaders Aberdeen.
O’Neill, though, is set to stick along tried and tested lines today by keeping faith with the squad which delivered the essential six points from this month’s outings.
Ciarán Clark did enough at centre-back in his first competitive action under the O’Neill and Roy Keane tandem to retain his starting role alongside John O’Shea, though his Aston Villa place was taken by Joleon Lescott upon his return from international duty.
Among the favourites to deputise for Whelan during an assignment certain to carry a defensive theme are Marc Wilson and David Meyler.
Three points from the final two matches will guarantee Ireland at least a playoff. Ominously for Ireland, whilst Joachim Low’s Germans require a single point to secure a qualifying berth, soundbites from his players after they overtook Poland at the summit centred on inflicting revenge for the 1-1 draw which O’Shea pinched in Gelsenkirchen almost a year ago.
In the eyes of many neutral observers, Germany have improved and Ireland have dipped in the three-year period since the visitors pummelled their way to a 6-1 win on route to their World Cup triumph in Brazil.
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