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Omission doesn't rule Stephen Ireland out of summer tour -- Martin O'Neill

The Ireland manager will speak to the Stoke midfielder personally after the Premier League concludes this weekend.

Image: EMPICS Sport

MARTIN O’NEILL HOPES to speak to Stephen Ireland next week to gauge his interest and commitment in returning to the international setup.

The Ireland manager has left the door open for Ireland to be involved in Ireland’s four summer friendly fixtures, despite the Stoke midfielder not being among his provisional 32-man squad.

Speaking at the FAI’s base in Abbottstown today, O’Neill made it clear that he will consider adding to as well as cutting this provisional group of players:

“I met up with a couple of the Stoke lads,” O’Neill said at today’s squad announcement.

“I wanted to deliberately meet with Stephen on his own rather than in a group with the lads. I intend to do that. I really wanted the season to finish with him so that [he has] total concentration on the last couple of games.”

When O’Neill and Ireland do meet, The Derry man offered a preview of how his side of the conversation would go:

“As long as he has decided – that’s the issue for me – if he genuinely wants to play for us. And he’s said: ‘I’m going, and I’m prepared to work to get into the side because there’s nothing there chosen for me and there’ll be no excuses’; then absolutely fine.”

Another big name not included in the 32-man list for games against Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal is Richard Dunne. Like Ireland, he is another who O’Neill was keen to stress could again be involved next season even if not part of the summer tour. And with the latter stages of Dunne’s career littered with injury, the Ireland boss backed the Dubliner’s suggestion that he would be best served using the summer to let his body recover.

“I wouldn’t dismiss him, I’m not in a position to dismiss anybody at the moment,” says O’Neill.

“If you look at the squad I have a number of options – young lads coming through – and I wouldn’t mind having a look at some other options. I know exactly what Richard can do.

‘He’s in bits’

“He is one person I know inside out, I’ve watched him a number of  times this season.

“I think even if Richard had not mentioned [taking the summer to rest] himself, then Harry Redknapp would be on the phone to me saying, ‘just leave him’ – one of Harry’s phrases would be – ‘he’s in bits’.

“I probably wouldn’t have taken him anyways. [Maybe] September time, though not that long away, is that start of a new season.”

Robbie Keane is among the squad, hoping to add to his 131 caps and 62 goals, though the LA Galaxy striker is likely to be involved only in the two US-based fixtures.

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Sean Farrell

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