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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Minutes matter for Martin as Ireland arrive for Mexican stand-off

Ahead of Thursday night’s game, the Ireland squad trained today at the home of the New York Red Bulls

Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane and manager Martin O'Neill during today's training session. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Joe Callaghan reports from New Jersey

MARTIN O’NEILL COULD have been forgiven for feeling more jet-lagged than most as the Ireland delegation shook off the rustiness of their trans-Atlantic journey in New Jersey this morning.

The Ireland manager may be Stateside with 19 members of his international panel as they prepare for Thursday’s friendly against Mexico at MetLife Stadium.

But in truth, his mind is split between two time zones as O’Neill keeps one eye on developments back home, with Sunday week’s potentially pivotal World Cup qualifying clash with Austria looming into view.

As his Stateside selection, largely made up of Championship performers, worked out in front of him at the training base of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, O’Neill fielded questions about those who will join the panel when they return home this weekend.

Martin O'Neill O'Neill addresses the media. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The most positive news centred on Harry Arter, the Bournemouth midfielder who missed his side’s final game of the Premier League season with an achilles injury that continues to trouble him.

“He was always going to miss the last game of the season,” insisted O’Neill, whose side on their return home will face Uruguay at Lansdowne Road.

“I think he was getting over some things. He’ll be in when we get back. Glenn [Whelan] is coming in a wee bit later [too].”

The outlook for other Premier League performers might not be as positive, however. With both Marc Wilson and Darron Gibson having found club game-time hard to come by, they are unlikely to see international minutes any time soon either.

“Once we finish this game and see how people come through. Obviously Wilson, great as a person, but he hasn’t played that much. That’s the point.

Eunan O'Kane The Ireland squad being put through their paces. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We do have some boys who have played more games at this minute and that might become very important in the middle of June when you haven’t played in a long time. Darron the same. I wouldn’t dismiss people from my thoughts but it’s just the number of minutes.”

With minutes on the mind, O’Neill insisted he’s eager to see Shane Duffy prove his sharpness against what’s likely to be a threatening Mexican frontline on Thursday.

The Brighton centre-half and Eunan O’Kane were involved in a minor car accident on their way to linking up with the squad but both took part in a full session here in the quiet suburban surrounds of Whippany.

“We just arrived in last night and the five-hour difference is just a wee bit strange, but they’re in good fettle,” said O’Neill, on his second US trip with Ireland after friendlies against Portugal and Costa Rica on the east coast in 2014.

Shane Duffy Shane Duffy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It looks as if everybody is okay. The two lads [Duffy and O'Kane], they’ve trained today and they’re fine. We trained here a couple of years ago when we came out — three years ago, almost to the day — and the pitch is good. The Bermuda grass is really fine.

“Some players need to play, especially if they’ve got a chance of being involved against Austria. We’ve got two games, we don’t want to lose, we want to develop some pattern of play.”

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Joe Callaghan

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