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'Places are up for grabs. We've a number of players I'd like to see' - O'Neill

The Ireland manager is encouraging those on the periphery to make a late push for a spot in his Euro 2016 squad.

O'Neill intends to get a better look at Brentford's Alan Judge.
O'Neill intends to get a better look at Brentford's Alan Judge.
Image: EMPICS Sport

Updated at 18.00

WE’RE JUST FIVE months out from the first ball being kicked at Euro 2016 but Martin O’Neill insists that is more than enough time for a player to force his way into the Ireland squad.

23 names will make the final squad list for this summer’s finals in France, and those involved in the successful qualifying campaign will be favourites to retain their places.

However, with friendly matches against Switzerland (25 March), Slovakia (29 March) and the Netherlands (27 May) to come, the Ireland boss plans to run the rule over a number of fringe players — including uncapped Brentford midfielder Alan Judge, who has enjoyed a productive season in the Championship.

“There are definitely places up for grabs,” said O’Neill. “We’ve a number of players I’d like to see.

“I mentioned the last time that we’ve got these games in March and there’s a couple of players who have been on the periphery of things that have not had a chance and maybe thought they should have.

Players like Alan Judge for instance who is doing very, very well. So I’d like to include them.

“I don’t want to give out caps by a willy-nilly basis but by the same token, there’s one or two players who are doing very well and might just deserve that chance at international level.”

Soccer - International Friendly - Republic of Ireland v Czech Republic - Aviva Stadium Jamex McClean making his Ireland debut against the Czech Republic in February 2012. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Four years ago, James McClean’s impressive form at Sunderland in the second half of the 2011/12 campaign saw the winger handed a place in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Euro 2012 squad after making his senior international debut that February. 

And O’Neill, who gave the winger is chance at the Black Cats, hasn’t ruled out something similar happening if a player can impress in the coming months.

“He (McClean) hadn’t been involved but from Christmas onwards he made a big, big impact at club level and carried it through,” recalls O’Neill. “I always think there’s room for it and I can’t dismiss it anyway.

I will have a look at it in the next four or five weeks, but I would say if there is a chance of anybody trying to come through, maybe the March games are the ones.

“I don’t want to close it off but it might be very difficult if someone came through after March and, let’s say he was only 19 or 20, looked a really fine prospect but had no international experience.

“I’m not saying I would exclude it but that sort of decision might become more difficult.

“I would not rule out any of those things at all because, I’ve said this before, while it might sound a bit fanciful I still think that sort of James McClean situation can happen at any given time.”

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Ben Blake

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