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Martin O'Neill on Chris Forrester and other League One players' chances with Ireland

The Irish boss will be casting his eye over a number of less familiar Irish players in the coming months.

Chris Forrester has impressed since joining Peterborough.
Chris Forrester has impressed since joining Peterborough.
Image: EMPICS Sport

FOR THE MOST part during his tenure so far as Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill has opted against calling up players below Championship level.

That said, the Irish boss did call up League of Ireland pair Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle for the recent World Cup qualifier away to Austria.

In addition, David Forde featured in several final squads while competing in League One last year, while Callum O’Dowda also got the nod initially from O’Neill during his time with Oxford, in the same season he helped the team earn promotion from League Two.

In general, though, the squad has consisted of Premier League and Championship players, which suggests that anyone seeking to get into the squad on a long-term basis needs to be operating in one of England’s top-two tiers or elsewhere abroad, á la Kevin Doyle and Adam Rooney.

Chris Forrester, however, might be one player O’Neill is willing to make an exception for. The 23-year-old has impressed since his move from St Patrick’s Athletic to Peterborough.

Having been at the League One side just over a year, the young midfielder has already been made club captain and drawn comparisons to Man United star Michael Carrick.

Since the start of the season, Forrester has been involved in all of Peterborough’s 19 league matches, scoring three goals in the process, while helping the club climb to their current position of sixth place — just inside the promotion spots.

But for Ireland, despite being involved in one provisional squad, Forrester has yet to make the final party.

The Dubliner would certainly be a popular choice to represent the Boys in Green, particularly as it would make him the latest in a long line of ex-League of Ireland stars to do so.

And O’Neill didn’t rule out the possibility of Forrester or any other League One player being included in future squads.

“No, it wouldn’t necessarily deter me, but what you are trying to do is make assessments of players a couple of leagues below,” the Ireland coach said, speaking at the launch of the Uefa Euro 2020 Dublin City Brand.

We have been talking about the lads in Dundalk, there is no question that their exploits in Europe have helped cement the thought that you might have but tell me of some great expert who can delve into the old third division and turn around and say ‘someone is capable of playing international football against Austria, Serbia, Wales, Italy’.

“You know it’s a tough call and I don’t think there is a judge in football who can do that… And I’m as good as any! (Playing in a lower league is) a hurdle in that sense (for Chris Forrester) but it wouldn’t deter me at all. But if I thought I could see something that’s right in front of my face then there would be no reason not to include him.”

Martin O'Neill and Enda Kenny Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Ireland’s next World Cup qualifier not taking place until 24 March against Wales, O’Neill will have plenty of time before then to cast his eye over several uncapped individuals with the potential to represent the Boys in Green.

“There are a number of players now who I can go and have a good proper look at,” he said. “I could mention three or four young lads, boys who have been on the periphery of things, but who are actively improving at club level and that is the only way you are going to notice them.

I think if the lads themselves are performing well and the club themselves are getting into a bit of limelight, all those things help — they help the player, but you don’t want someone who thinks they are doing alright but are languishing in the third division.

“I also think the players who are on the periphery, who are desperate to play for their country, will feel that the latest Euro results are a big incentive for them to try and get into the squad. So yeah… Plenty of work now in the next couple of months and it’s great to go (watch these other players).”

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Paul Fennessy

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