O'Neill calls up uncapped trio as Republic of Ireland face make or break ties
Aston Villa striker Scott Hogan has been handed a first call-up by the Republic of Ireland for their final World Cup qualifiers. Martin O'Neill's men face Moldova and Wales in their last two Group D gam es next month as they look to keep their hopes of reaching Russia next year alive.
And O'Neill insists that Hogan's reluctance to declare for the Republic was purely down to his injury problems as opposed to his commitment to his adopted nation.
The uncapped Aston Villa striker was included in Ireland's 32-man provisional squad for the two crunch World Cup qualifiers next month, and O'Neill has backed Hogan to make an impression.
"I didn't give up," the Republic manager stressed. "When I spoke with his agent in the first place he was looking to recover from the injuries he had. And when you look at his history of injuries it's really understandable.
"I think there was always a viewpoint that they would come back around and now that he feels stronger, and certainly looks stronger, he's raring to go.
"So in terms of giving up, no, I just thought let it settle and see how things go."
Hogan, who qualifies to play for the Republic through his Carlow-born grandmother and Wexford-born grandfather, is one of three uncapped players in the extended squad along with Sean Maguire and Aiden O'Brien, who O'Neill watched in action for Millwall last night.
"I've seen O'Brien on a number of occasions and he has done very well," added O'Neill.
Midfielder Jeff Hendrick and David McGoldrick return after injury, but Greg Cunningham (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee) miss out.
"The Moldova game is everything to us, we have to win this game," said O'Neill. "It'll be a nervy 90 minutes, we've seen this before in games we're hoping to win. We're going to try to go to Wales with everything to play for, so the game has become ultra important.
"We've found the odd hiccup in the last couple of weeks, we can rectify that.
"We have two games and we know if win them you would be desperately unlucky not to be in the play-offs."
James McClean and Robbie Brady are suspended for the first clash, but will be available to face Wales. Bournemouth's Harry Arter (calf) and Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood (rib) are included but will be assessed.
Captain Seamus Coleman continues to recover from a broken leg he suffered on international duty last season.
Republic of Ireland squad: Randolph (Middlesbrough), Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Elliot (Newcastle), Colin Doyle (Bradford), Christie (Middlesbrough), Keogh (Derby), Duffy (Brighton), Clark (Newcastle), O'Shea (Sunderland), Kevin Long (Burnley), Ward (Burnley), McGeady (Sunderland), McClean (West Brom), Whelan (Aston Villa), Hourihane (Aston Villa), Hendrick (Burnley) Brady (Burnley), McCarthy (Everton), Meyler (Hull), Harry (Bournemouth), O'Kane (Leeds), Hoolahan (Norwich), Hayes (Celtic), O'Dowda (Bristol City), Horgan (Preston), Shane Long (Southampton), Murphy (Nottingham Forest), McGoldrick (Ipswich), Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Maguire (Preston), Hogan (Aston Villa), O'Brien (Millwall).