Long and McClean pro­vide pos­i­tives for O’Neill

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - EMMET MALONE

There was some good news over the week­end for Repub­lic of Ire­land man­ager Martin O’Neill ahead of today’s squad an­nounce­ment at the Aviva Sta­dium with Shane Long getting his first start of the sea­son for Southampton and James McClean scor­ing his first goal for Stoke City against Hull.

As ever, though, there were dis­ap­point­ments too with De­clan Rice an un­used sub­sti­tute for West Ham as the Lon­don­ers lost 1-0 to Arse­nal on Satur­day and Rob­bie Brady missed out on the match­day squad for Burn­ley’s game at Ful­ham.

O’Neil has sug­gested the Dubliner is un­likely to fea­ture in ei­ther the Na­tions League game in Cardiff on Septem­ber 6th or the friendly, five days later, in Poland. But he re­sumed train­ing last week and could get game time with the un­der-23 side over the com­ing days so the man­ager may well hedge his bets for the mo­ment by nam­ing him in what will likely be ex­tended pre­lim­i­nary squad.


Jeff Hen­drick, who scored for Burn­ley in their 4-2 de­feat by Ful­ham, Matt Do­herty, who per­formed well in Wolves’ 1-1 draw with Manch­ester City and Conor Houri­hane, who came on for the sec­ond half of As­ton Villa’s game against Read­ing, all look cer­tain to be in­cluded while Enda Stevens did his chances no harm by con­tribut­ing an as­sist as Sh­effield United beat Bolton 3-0.

O’Neill ac­knowl­edged last week a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the play­ers he names in the squad for the games next month may be slightly on the mar­gins at their clubs but he will still be frus­trated to see Rice, who had been do­ing so well, ap­par­ently fall out of favour for now at West Ham. As­sum­ing the 19-year-old doesn’t have a dra­matic late change of heart, how­ever, he is likely to get his first com­pet­i­tive cap in Cardiff, some­thing that will put to bed the on­go­ing is­sue of his dual in­ter­na­tional el­i­gi­bil­ity.

A de­cent dis­play by McClean will have been as wel­come for the Ire­land man­ager as it was for the player’s club boss Gary Rowett, who seemed re­lieved to have seen some­thing ap­proach­ing the best of a player who has made a slow start to life at Stoke since his sum­mer move. “He’s an easy player to some­times crit­i­cise,” said Rowett, who had been com­ing in for some him­self after his side’s early Cham­pi­onship de­feats, “and I know in his first few games he’s not per­formed as he would have liked, but one thing you can­not crit­i­cise James McClean for is his com­mit­ment . . . sums us up. About 75 min­utes into the game, they’re down to 10 men, we’re 2-0 up and he sprints back 60 yards to atone for one of his team-mates’ er­rors and makes a last-ditch tackle.

“We haven’t got enough of those play­ers in the build­ing. They’re the type of peo­ple we want be­cause hard work will al­ways get re­warded.”

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