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World Cup is my main aim, insists O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Published 24/09/2016

Big targets: Martin O’Neill
Big targets: Martin O’Neill

Martin O'Neill has made it clear that the primary focus of his job is to qualify for major tournaments rather than develop young talent after signing a new deal to stay on as manager of the Republic of Ireland.

The former Northern Ireland captain, his assistant Roy Keane and backroom staff are now under contract for the World Cup campaign with O'Neill determined to take the Republic to the 2018 finals in Russia having guided the team to Euro 2016.

Speaking at a press conference to announce his squad for World Cup qualifiers at home to Georgia on October 6 and away to Moldova three days later, O'Neill didn't go on about long term plans, like other international managers tend to do. He made it plain what his aims are going forward.

"I have to ask myself what is my job? My job is essentially to qualify for competitions," said the 64-year-old.

"I could lessen the age of the team overnight. I could bring in players who might not be capable of doing the job for two or three years and I think that would sort of be hiding behind the point."

O’Neill, who said he was delighted with the new deal, added: “My job is to essentially qualify for competitions. First and foremost, that is my job. I can’t go into the transfer market to change players around. You have to work with what you have.

“During the course of time, you are looking for new blood to come in but that new blood still has to prove itself and in the meantime you have to get results. If I thought I was going to be here for 10 years then, absolutely, of course, but I can’t take my eye off us trying to qualify.”

In O’Neill’s panel for the games with Georgia and Moldova, Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane and Falkirk’s Danny Rogers are the new faces.

Republic squad: Darren Randolph (West Ham United), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Danny Rogers (Falkirk - on loan from Aberdeen); Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce (Derby County) Paul McShane (Reading), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Marc Wilson (Bournemouth), Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady (Preston - on loan from Everton), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Stephen Quinn (Reading), David Meyler (Hull City), Conor Hourihane (Barnsley), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Robbie Brady, Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff City), Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen); Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Newcastle United), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids).

Belfast Telegraph

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