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O'Neill hints at handing debuts to uncapped quartet as Brady named stand-in captain for Iceland friendly

Daryl Horgan, Conor Hourihane, John Egan and Andy Boyle could all make their international bows at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.

The Irish players at the FAI's National Training Campus this morning.
The Irish players at the FAI's National Training Campus this morning.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AS MANY AS four players could make their senior international debuts when Ireland meet Iceland in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening.

After Friday’s 0-0 draw with Wales left the Boys in Green well-placed in World Cup qualifying Group D at the midway point, manager Martin O’Neill was back on the training pitch to put his players through their paces in a light session.

Captain Seamus Coleman remains in hospital after undergoing surgery on a double leg break, while first-team regulars John O’Shea, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters have all returned to their respective clubs.

That will give several fringe players the opportunity to wear the green jersey, and uncapped quartet Daryl Horgan, Conor Hourihane, John Egan and Andy Boyle could all make their bows on Tuesday.

“There will be some players that will play for the first time tomorrow,” said O’Neill. “It’s a balancing act between getting players who are actually deserving of the cap some international experience, that’s a call I have to make.

“There are a couple of lads who have gone home — John O’Shea, Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan — so they won’t play.

“In fairness to clubs, some of the lads who played on Friday night who are still with us certainly won’t start in the game and might not participate at all.”

O’Neill added that the fixture is an ideal chance for those involved to stake a claim for more regular game-time:

“You don’t want to give out caps just because they are there, you want them to earn it. But (of course) for experience you would want that.

Some players who have just come into the squad, like the two lads at Preston (Horgan and Boyle), have acquitted themselves very well in training and they are basically just starting out in their international careers.

“Others who have been around the squad but haven’t played regularly may well play as well and whatever length of time they have on the pitch tomorrow evening, it’s a chance to try and impress and that is what they will try to do.”

Robbie Brady and Martin O’Neill Brady and O'Neill speaking to the media this afternoon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Neill has named Burnley’s Robbie Brady as stand-in skipper for tomorrow night, but he hasn’t yet decided who will captain the team in Coleman’s absence for the remainder of the campaign.

Brady missed the Wales qualifier due to suspension, and the Dubliner is happy to be back available.

“It’s always frustrating when you have got to watch on and you can’t do anything to change the flow of the game,” he said.

“But with the lads who are ready to come, they put in a good shift and it’s another point on the board. Friday night’s behind us now and I was obviously disappointed not to play but I’m just happy to be back in.”

There has been no timeline put on Coleman’s return but the Everton captain is likely to miss the remainder of 2017.

“I think he’s just beginning to come to terms with it,” O’Neill said of the Donegal defender. “I saw him yesterday and he’s still pretty down about it. He’s not in as much pain, the operation went very well and it’s just a matter of coming to terms with it.”

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Ben Blake

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