O’Neill refuses to rule out Stephen Ireland return

O’Neill refuses to rule out Stephen Ireland return

STEPHEN Ireland could yet be added to the Republic of Ireland squad for their end-of-season friendlies.

The midfielder’s name was absent when manager Martin O’Neill named a provisional 32-man party for games against Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal later this month and into June.

However, O’Neill said: “I’ve no issue with Stephen Ireland, slate is clean. If he wants to play again, I’d rather hear from him but if he doesn’t want to, fine.”

Ireland face Turkey at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, May 25 and then head for London to play Italy at Craven Cottage on Saturday, May 31.

World Cup finalists Costa Rica provide the opposition at the PPL Stadium in Philadelphia on Friday, June 6, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will bring down the curtain on the Republic’s international season four days later at the Metlife Stadium in New Jersey.

Richard Dunne has ruled himself out of the games. Fit-again pair Joey O’Brien and Jeff Hendrick are back in the fold, as are Everton defender Shane Duffy and Derby striker Conor Sammon.

O’Neill will use the four games to hone his plans ahead of the qualifiers, which begin in Georgia on September 7. He intends to arrange a further friendly in the run-up to that encounter.

O’Neill said: “These four games will provide us with great preparation for our first European qualifier against Georgia in September.

“I have enjoyed working with the players to date, and intend to use this extended period with them in May-June to give me the opportunity to experiment and familiarise myself with the squad further.”

Republic of Ireland's 32-man squad for the upcoming friendlies:

Goalkeepers: David Forde (Millwall FC ), Darren Randolph (Birmingham City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United)

Defenders: Richard Keogh (Derby County), Marc Wilson (Stoke City), Seamus Coleman (Everton), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Alex Pearce (Reading), Stephen Kelly (Reading), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace), Joey O’Brien (West Ham), Shane Duffy (Everton), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Brighton)

Midfielders: James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Paul Green (Leeds United), Aiden McGeady (Everton),  Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Stephen Quinn (Hull City), David Meyler (Hull City), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)

Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Hull City), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town), Jon Walters (Stoke City), Kevin Doyle (QPR), Anthony Stokes (Celtic), Simon Cox (Nottingham Forrest), Connor Sammon (Derby County).