Gary Carr/INPHO McClean was keen to be involved.
# 3-5-2
Ireland set to experiment with a new formation against Mexico?
Martin O’Neill says he may switch to a three-man defence and deploy James McClean at wing-back on Thursday.

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill has hinted that he will use Thursday’s friendly to try out an alternative system.

With the majority of the Premier League-based players and those involved in the Championship play-offs rested, an in-experienced 19-man squad travels to the US to play Mexico at New Jersey’s Metlife Stadium (1am Irish time, live on eirSport).

Of the seven defenders making the trip, not one is primarily a left-sided full-back and O’Neill says he may deploy a 3-5-2 formation with James McClean at wing-back.

Since taking over in 2013, he has lined his teams out with a four-man defence, but regularly played three at the back during his time in club management.

“There is no recognised left back but it gives us the opportunity to experiment,” the Ireland boss told the media today. “We could possibly play three centre-halves and two wing-backs. James has done that before.

It gives us the chance for a bit of experimentation.”

West Brom winger McClean and West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph are the two players plying their trade in the English top flight who are involved in order to get minutes under their belts.

“He wanted to play,” O’Neill said of McClean. “Most of the boys who are playing in the Premier League will join up with us after the game in the US, but James wanted to come out. He has got a great attitude.”

On Randolph — one of two keepers involved along with Bradford’s Colin Doyle — he added: “He’s disappointed to lose his place in the [West Ham] team and wanted to come to America to get some game time. He has done very well.

“It’s good that Keiren [Westwood] is pushing him. Rob Elliot played the last couple of games for Newcastle but is still feeling the injury so we’ll assess that during the next couple of days. So we’ll just have the two goalkeepers coming with us.”

Martin O'Neill Gary Carr / INPHO O'Neill chatting to the media today. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Burnley defender Kevin Long and midfielder Alan Browne of Preston North End are the two uncapped players on the plane.

Both could be handed senior debuts this week, but O’Neill suggested that he has brought them along mainly to gain experience in the senior set-up.

“Kevin played the last couple of games for Burnley and put himself into a position,” he said. “I thought it might be worth looking at more than anything else.

“By the end of the training camp in Cork I thought ‘yeah, let’s bring him along’.

“And it’s exactly the same with Browne. Let them experience these things anyway, if nothing else, and let’s see what happens.”

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