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Can Wes Hoolahan start both games against Bosnia?

Ireland boss says there will be “a great deal of player management” as Ireland face two games in 72 hours.

Hoolahan came off the bench in the defeat against Poland.
Hoolahan came off the bench in the defeat against Poland.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL ASSUMES that Wes Hoolahan will be able to play in both legs of Ireland’s Euro 2016 play-off.

But the Ireland manager accepts that the quick turnaround between the games in Bosnia and Dublin puts a question mark over the Norwich playmaker and some others.

There was a fierce debate over Hoolahan’s fitness when he was named on the bench for Ireland’s final Group D game in Poland, apparently after telling O’Neill that he was not ready to start.

He had been carrying a foot injury at the time but O’Neill also indicated that, at 33, starting two games in the space of 72 hours was a big ask.

Hoolahan made light of that suggestion last night when he played the full 120 minutes of Norwich’s Capital One Cup defeat to Everton — although he did miss a penalty in the shootout.

That followed a 78-minute appearance in Saturday’s home defeat at West Brom.

“I try to work on the assumption that players, regardless of what age they are, will make themselves available for both games,” O’Neill said when asked about Hoolahan today.

They do come in quick succession. Wes wouldn’t be the only one that you would have a bit of concern about being able to do the two games.

Ireland will be without the suspended John O’Shea and Jon Walters for the trip to Zenica on 13 November, while Shane Long is still a doubt while he recovers from his ankle injury.

O’Neill admits that with two games in quick succession, fatigue has to be a consideration.

“There’s always a great deal of player management involved in it,” he said.

“I’m close to the scene so I’m watching the players train and if someone comes in and says to you, ‘I don’t think that I’m able to play or to start a second game,’ of course you’ll take that into consideration.

I think the players’ needs come first.

“If someone else comes in and says, ‘I’m feeling a little bit tired but I could really start the game if you wanted me to start, I might not be able to last 90 minutes,’ I’ll take all of that into consideration as I have done since the start of the tournament. ”

He added: “If they feel that way, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think they would do that for the good of the team, not just for themselves.”

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Niall Kelly

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