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Ireland trio in contention to make senior debuts against Mexico

“We want them to give the manager a headache for Uruguay but, more importantly, the Austria match.”

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane at today's training session at Fota Island, with defender Kevin Long looking on.
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane at today's training session at Fota Island, with defender Kevin Long looking on.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

ROY KEANE HAS challenged the fringe members of Ireland’s squad to play their way into contention for next month’s crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Ireland will fly out to the USA early next week for a friendly against Mexico, which will take place at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Thursday night.

A friendly against Uruguay will follow in Dublin on Sunday, before Martin O’Neill’s side resume their bid to qualify for next summer’s World Cup by welcoming Austria to the Aviva Stadium seven days later.

Many of Ireland’s key players were absent from this week’s training camp at Fota Island in Cork, but they will join up with the squad by the time the Austrians come to town.

In the meantime, the 17 players who trained in Fota will travel to New Jersey, in addition to James McClean and three goalkeepers from Colin Doyle, Rob Elliot, Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph.

Cork City goalkeepers Mark McNulty and Alan Smith were invited to train with the squad this week but they have now returned to their club to prepare for tomorrow night’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game against Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross.

“Obviously we’ll be bringing the lads who were here the last few days. I’m sure they’re looking forward to it,” said Roy Keane, Ireland’s assistant manager, this afternoon.

“Obviously the three keepers will be joining up with us for the weekend, as will James McClean. It’s part of the preparation. We just hope they do well. We want them to give the manager a headache for Uruguay but, more importantly, the Austria match.”

Keane added: “That’s why they’re here — for us to see lads close up. It’s great watching them in club football but for the staff it’s great watching them close up, around the hotel, in the training. I think there are only benefits that will come out of it.”

Defenders Kevin Long and Declan Rice, along with midfielder Alan Browne, are the three uncapped players who are set to be in contention to make their first senior international appearances in the game against Mexico.

Preston North End v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Deepdale Preston North End midfielder Alan Browne. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“Obviously Alan has played international football at underage, he’s played regularly at Championship level and obviously a good percentage of our players are Championship players,” Keane said of Preston midfielder Browne.

“Like any player who has been training for the last few days, he should take a look at our squad and say ‘Okay, I’d like to to think I’ve got a chance’.

“I think in the last three days, the thing that’s been impressive with the few lads is that they’ve had a really good attitude to their training; a nice mindset. It’s been a quiet few days because a lot of the lads are trying to bed in.

“Usually, you might have noticed, there would be a bit more noise or banter, but because there are a few lads trying to bed in it’s been quiet, but a nice quiet. The lads have just got on with their training and they’ve impressed all the staff.”

Long’s first senior Ireland call-up has come in the same month that he made his first Premier League start for Burnley, who he joined from Cork City almost eight years ago. However, the 26-year-old’s time at Turf Moor so far has been blighted by injury.

Keane said: “He’s obviously had a good few months. He’s been in the background at Burnley for quite a while. I know one or two of the staff members there and they speak highly of him. Burnley turned down plenty of offers for him to go out on loan in the Championship and he’s got his chance in the Premier League recently and done well.

“I’ve seen him a couple of times. He’s a good strong boy. Obviously he’s not a kid and I’m sure if he gets a chance against Mexico he’ll take it. That’s what happens in football sometimes.

Declan Rice Declan Rice Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Sometimes fellas come into the squad at 19/20 years of age, whether it’s a Robbie Keane or a [Robbie] Brady, and then other lads come in a bit later in their career and that’s fine also.

“As I’ve said, we don’t have the biggest pool of players so if lads are playing, particularly at Premier League level, then obviously they are going to be considered, of course.”

As for Rice, who made his Premier League debut for West Ham on Sunday at the age of 18, Keane said: “We’ve not seen too much of him. He’s not played much football. I know he got on for the last few minutes against Burnley. I was at the game.

“It was nice to see him close up and it’s nice to see these lads around the hotel. We can talk about the football side of things but it’s nice to get to know their personalities a little bit.

“He’s seems to have enjoyed it. He’s a nice kid and we’ll see what he’s like over the coming weeks. Again, there are different challenges for these players. We are going to New York for a game and what is their attitude going to be like over there? How are they going to get on with the group? But as you’d expect, it’s stating the obvious, they’re all looking forward to it.”

Keane confirmed that he won’t be in attendance for tomorrow night’s game on Leeside between Cork City and Shamrock Rovers, but he does hope to be at Oriel Park seven days later for City’s clash with champions Dundalk.

Roy Keane and Conor Hourihane Roy Keane oversaw today's training session. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ireland squad to play Mexico:

Goalkeepers: Three from Colin Doyle (Bradford City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday) and Darren Randolph (West Ham United).

Defenders: Cyrus Christie, Alex Pearce, Richard Keogh (Derby County), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Andy Boyle (Preston North End), Kevin Long (Burnley) Declan Rice (West Ham United) and John Egan (Brentford).

Midfielders: Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan (Preston North End), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City) and James McClean (West Bromwich Albion).

Forwards: David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town) and Daryl Murphy (Newcastle United).

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