Belfast Telegraph

Closing curtain on Republic career hasn't entered Walters' mind

 

By Daniel McDonnell

Jon Walters has told Martin O'Neill that he has no plans to retire from international football.

The 34-year-old Burnley striker is currently on the sidelines recuperating from a knee injury.

He was unavailable for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off defeat to Denmark, and veteran colleagues Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy opted to step away afterwards.

John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan are also expected to bring down the curtain on their Irish careers.

However, Walters met with O'Neill recently and indicated he wanted to prolong his Irish journey, fitness permitting.

"I think Jon would like to continue depending on how things go in the next couple of months," said O'Neill. "I have spoken to him and he is obviously waiting to get over his injury. I think that he is improving.

"I think Jon will still want to play when he is 64. So that will be up to him. He is not one to retire.

"He was very, very positive a couple of months ago and I met him down in London when he came down for a check up on how his injury was going.

"He's still pretty keen, so hopefully that keenness will improve as his injury improves."

O'Neill suggested that he will keep the door open for Walters.

By contrast, he has not spoken to Whelan, and it was always anticipated he might be phased out because of midfield competition.

A summer farewell for O'Shea around the friendly with the USA is a strong possibility.

The Republic remain light in the forward department, and that's why Walters has a role to play in the rebuilding job towards Euro 2020.

"I think he can still bring value to the squad because at this minute we have got Shane Long and we have got two young lads (Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan) now trying to impress, which is great," said the Ulsterman, speaking after the first training session in Belek leading up to Friday's friendly with Turkey.

"If he wants to do it, I also think he would be a great influence as well, a bit like John O'Shea was. Jon has always felt part of it, particularly during my time when he has been terrific."

Meanwhile, Kieran O'Hara says he has been thrilled to spend time training with coach Roy Keane.

"Growing up, Roy was a Manchester United captain and a club legend, he pretty much won everything," O'Hara enthuses. "To have someone like that watching over you is fantastic".

O'Hara is a Manchester United player too, although his name would not mean much to their supporters. He's gained first-team experience on the non-league scene and then with Morecambe.

Therefore, this invite to Turkey is a major opportunity for a player who qualifies through his Galway grandparents.

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