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O'Neill set to experiment in his first outing with Ireland

The recently-appointed manager is hoping to see as many players as possible in the games against Latvia and Poland.

O'Neill fielding questions this evening.
O'Neill fielding questions this evening.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

MARTIN O’NEILL IS still very much getting a feel for his new role on the eve of his first fixture as Ireland manager.

The five days since he was unveiled in a packed room at the Gibson Hotel have flown by and, with just three training sessions under his belt, he admits that he would struggle to pick his best XI if pressed on it.

For that reason, O’Neill chose to skip over a couple of questions about possible personnel and formations in his pre-match press conference at the Aviva Stadium. He will also wait until just before kick-off to name the starting line-up and presumably has some thinking to do tonight.

“It’s a matter of me trying to familiarise myself with players I didn’t know,” O’Neill said. “The players have given a great response, I’ve been delighted with that. They have been very enthusiastic.

“I suppose you would expect that anyway with a new manager coming in. It has been pretty positive so far.”

First up is the visit of Latvia tomorrow evening before the squad travels to Poland for the final game of 2013.

And while he gave no indication of who will play on either night, O’Neill suggested that there would be several changes made for the outing in Poznan as he hopes to get to see as many of his players in action as possible.

“We’ve got a group of players coming over here and, while the results are obviously important and it would be nice to get off to a good start and win some matches, there will be an element of experimentation as well. I’d like to give some players who don’t play tomorrow night some time in Poland.

It’s more the case of getting to know the players. I’m sure there’s not a player who will be training that wouldn’t want to play tomorrow night but I can only play so many.

“Some boys who will play tomorrow will just have to sit it out in Poland. It’s a bit of a journey for the lads coming over. They’re all excited and everybody wants to be a part of it. I wouldn’t mind playing as many players as I possible can and I will mix and match.

“It’s like anything, it might be a different story if it was the first competitive game. Even then I might not know the best XI but these months will give me an opportunity (to figure it out).

“By the time we come around in September, inevitably there could be some changes. There might be some young players come through that none of us have heard about who might be fantastic and there might be some very important players that might be injured.”

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Ben Blake

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