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Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill looking to move on from Everton spat

Published 11/11/2016

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is looking to move on from the row over Everton midfielder James McCarthy
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is looking to move on from the row over Everton midfielder James McCarthy

Martin O'Neill has added Everton manager Ronald Koeman to his "to call" list - but only after he has spoken to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The Republic of Ireland boss was in mischievous mood as he conducted his pre-match press conference at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna on Friday evening ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Much of the build-up to the game back in Ireland had centred around his difference of opinion with Koeman over midfielder James McCarthy's recent fitness problems.

Asked if he would speak to the Dutchman to clear the air, O'Neill replied with a smile: "He would join my to-call list, but I should first put a call into Donald Trump to congratulate him. And then give my commiserations to Hillary Clinton.

"Then somewhere down the line, Koeman, yes. There is also the possibility that someone might call me, no?"

The two men have been at loggerheads over O'Neill's decision to start McCarthy in both qualifiers against Georgia and Moldova last month despite the fact that he had just returned from groin surgery.

Matters were not helped this time around when he named McCarthy in his provisional squad as he fought his way back from a hamstring injury which ultimately meant he did not join up.

But asked if there was a danger of players being caught up in the wrangle, O'Neill, who was sitting alongside Republic skipper and Everton full-back Seamus Coleman, said: "Seamus is not caught up in the middle of it, he's here and he wants to play.

"It was a continuation [of the row] at the time, but I seriously think it's over now as far as we're concerned. Just let us move on.

'I put James into a provisional squad because he thought that he might get through. It was always the probability that he wouldn't make it. And because it's a hamstring, I wouldn't really want to risk him.

'But the other time that he played before, he had recovered from the injury and the point was made that he was in Everton's squad a few days later.

'As far as I'm concerned, it's all over and I'm hoping that James is available again come March time.

'I don't think players get caught in that trap at all and I don't think it would be right for them to be caught between their club and country."

If much of the talk in recent days has been about players who are not available - Stephen Ward, Cyrus Christie, Stephen Quinn, Eunan O'Kane and McCarthy have all withdrawn from the squad - there was better news of one man who may have a key role to play in Vienna.

James McClean missed training earlier in the week with a back problem but resumed on Thursday and was out on the pitch at the Ernst Happel Stadium on Friday evening as O'Neill completed his final preparations.

With Daryl Murphy and Shane Long also injured, the squad is light on attacking players and McClean's two goals in Moldova could land him a more advanced role once again.

O'Neill said: "Somebody asked me if he can take over what you might consider the Jon Walters mantle for this particular tournament, and the answer is I don't know.

"But he scored a couple of goals in the last game and did exceptionally well."

Ireland go into the game joint top of Group D with Serbia on seven points, although they may have more than just the challenge of an Austrian side looking to bounce back from defeat in Serbia with which to contend, with 20cm of snow forecast overnight.

O'Neill said: "I wasn't aware of the forecast. How much snow? Seriously? It will make for an interesting game of football, then."

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