Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill's Republic have Turkey on the menu for friendly showdown

 

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland will kick off 2018 with a March training camp in Turkey ahead of a friendly in Antalya.

With the failure to qualify for the World Cup making home friendlies a difficult commercial challenge unless a high-class opponent can be attracted to Dublin, the FAI appear open to travelling for games.

And the meeting with the Turks on Friday, March 23 will be the Republic's first away friendly since O'Neill's first double-header as manager - a gathering in November 2013 that included a trip to Poland.

They have played friendlies on foreign soil but on neutral territory arranged by a third party.

This is a straightforward case of travelling to the Turks' patch, and the only other confirmed date on the 2018 calendar is in May with France in Paris.

There is a one-in-four chance that the Republic will draw Turkey in next month's Uefa Nations League, but that has not deterred the FAI from going ahead and agreeing the fixture.

The Republic will travel on Monday, March 19 and spend the week in the area before playing the game. O'Neill is expected to bring a squad featuring fresher faces, with question marks hanging over the future of a number of senior players.

John O'Shea, Glenn Whelan and Wes Hoolahan are expected to step away from the international game, while the intentions of Jon Walters and Daryl Murphy are unclear.

Stephen Ward should be a major part of the next campaign but the left back looks set to miss the bulk of Burnley's Christmas schedule with a knee problem.

Belfast Telegraph

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