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Ireland set to turn to McClean with just one fit striker for Slovakia

Martin O’Neill hinted that the West Brom winger could be in line for a different role tomorrow evening.

McClean in action against Switzerland.
McClean in action against Switzerland.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JAMES MCCLEAN COULD be set to play in a more advanced role for Ireland’s friendly against Slovakia after due to a rake of injuries in the striker department.

Shane Long is the only fit centre forward in the squad heading into Tuesday’s game at the Aviva Stadium with Daryl Murphy, Robbie Keane and Jon Walters all returning to their clubs and Kevin Doyle recovering from surgery on a large gash picked up in the win over Switzerland.

Despite the lack of options, Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has opted not to call up any additional players — suggesting that West Brom winger McClean may feature up front.

“I’m not going to bring anyone in at this late notice,” O’Neill said in today’s pre-match press conference.

“We can adjust things. James McClean has played up front before, I’ve seen him play for Wigan there where he has done exceptionally well. So I think we can change things around.

It’s been a bit of a disruption. For a start, I wanted Kevin Doyle to play at least for an hour if not the whole game. It was an opportunity for him and he started the game quite well but was unfortunate to get injured.

“I was thinking that Robbie Keane would be involved at some stage in one or two games and I really thought that Walters would be fit too. It’s been a bit of a disruption but these things happen.”

Martin O'Neill O'Neill alongside Ciaran Clark today. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While he won’t announce his starting line-up until an hour before kick-off tomorrow night, O’Neill added that he is thinking about giving Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane and Jonny Hayes of Aberdeen, who both came on to make their debuts on Friday night, another chance to impress.

“A wee bit of experience and a few of the new lads at some stage or another, maybe Hayes and O’Kane again are possibilities,” he replied when asked about selection possibilities. “I’ll just have a real think about it now.

“Players that have been around for the last seven or eight days, I’m sure the would like to get some time on the field.It might not be possible for everyone but at least they’ll have felt a type of involvement with the squad.”

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Here’s what the Ireland starting XI to face Slovakia should be

Ireland running out of strikers as Walters and Murphy return to their clubs

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Ben Blake

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