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'If there’s a natural goalscorer in Hogan and Maguire, it'd be nice for the future of the Republic of Ireland'

Martin O’Neill has opted to include the uncapped strikers in his latest provisional squad.

Ian Mallon with Martin O'Neill O'Neill at today's press conference at Aviva HQ in Dublin. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IT’S A POINT Martin O’Neill regularly harks back to — Ireland no longer possess a player who can put the ball in the back of the net with any regularity.

During the latter stages of Robbie Keane’s international career, the Ireland boss often lamented the fact that the country’s most prolific goalscorer of all-time wasn’t 10 years younger.

In fact, as recently as this month, O’Neill brought up the Tallaght man’s name after watching his side fail to score in the defeat to Serbia despite playing with an extra man for the final 22 minutes plus time added on.

“A 27-year-old Robbie Keane would have been in his element there,” the Derry man declared.

While we almost certainly won’t see a striker as prolific as Keane again — 14th on the list of top international scorers on 68 — the current management could really do with unearthing someone with a knack for goal-getting.

In the current qualification campaign, James McClean sits head and shoulders above the rest on three goals, while Shane Duffy, Seamus Coleman, Jeff Hendrick, Jon Walters, Shane Long and Daryl Murphy all have one.

Aston Villa v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship - Villa Park Hogan and Maguire are both plying their trade in the Championship. Source: Press Association

Although they have come from very different situations, Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan have been mooted for some time as players to potentially pin our hopes on.

Maguire terrorised League of Ireland defences at Cork City before securing a move to Preston North End over the summer, and he appears to have settled into his new surroundings well.

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Hogan, meanwhile, has only recently declared his allegiance to Ireland, but caught the eye with his exploits for Brentford, which earned him a January transfer to Aston Villa.

Both were today named in Ireland’s provisional squad for the final two World Cup qualifiers, and although that list has still to be whittled down before next month’s matches, it would be worth taking a chance on at least one, if not both, with Jon Walters missing through a knee injury.

“I think that’s a difficult one to consider,” O’Neill replied, when asked if the pair are experienced enough to make the step up to international level. ” It would be nice for them to have a little bit more experience.

“These are tough games for them to go into but we’ve lost a couple of players. Jon Walters is a massive loss to us but at least Daryl Murphy is staying fit for awhile, which is good news.

“David McGoldrick is coming back to a little bit of form, which is also good, but it would be nice to have these younger players coming in and trying to develop.

“We’ll see how it goes and if there’s a natural goalscorer in Hogan and Maguire then that would certainly be nice for the future of the Republic of Ireland.”

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Ben Blake

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