Return of Robbie Brady not cure-all for Republic woes - O'Neill

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady celebrates after scoring against Italy in Lille during Euro 2016
Andy Watters

MARTIN O’Neill has warned Republic of Ireland fans not to hail the return of Robbie Brady as the end of terrible run of form for the Boys in Green.

Burnley star Brady suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season that derailed his return from serious knee surgery last December but he was named in the Republic squad for the friendly against Northern Ireland next Thursday and the Nations League trip to Denmark three days later.

After a year on the sidelines, Brady’s return alongside team skipper Seamus Coleman is a timely “big boost” for O’Neill as he looks to end 2018 on a positive note. The Republic of Ireland have lost five of their seven games this year and their only win was a 2-1 success against the USA in June.

“Roy (Keane) and I travelled up to see Robbie play in an U23 game v Sheffield United two Mondays ago and that was him coming back,” O’Neill explained.

“He played the full game and they put him into the squad and he played against Chelsea four or five days later and I knew he'd be absolutely knackered.

“He was very tired in the game and it wasn't any surprise that the manager left him out for the next game (against Manchester City) but he came on and made the corner for the goal.

“At the end of the day, I think just getting him back is a good boost for a start.

“Secondly, it would be asking a lot for him to just come in and (be a match winner).

“I don't know what might happen at the weekend but in terms of fitness he wouldn't be completely there but time will tell but if he stays clear of serious injury and regains the form that he showed in the Euros then that has to be a boost for us.”

Brady has played at left back and in midfield for O’Neill’s Republic team. His delivery from corners has been missed as has his goal-scoring threat from free-kicks and open play and fans will remember his vital goals against Bosnia Herzegovina in Zenica and his dramatic last minute winner against Italy in Lille in the 2016 European Championships.

“In terms of his position, I think he can play in a number of positions for us and I think I would have a conversation with him and he's had time to reflect,” said Kilrea native O’Neill.

“I'm sure when you're injured you would think about what your best position is and sometimes at club level you're playing there and start to get too used to that position and that's where you want to play.

“To the most part you want to do that but sometimes you have to play out of position like Cyrus Christie did and he did wonderfully well for us.

“But asking Brady now to be the complete match winner again after being a year out of the game is asking a lot. He's had things to consider, but it's great to have him back, it's a big boost for us.”

MICHAEL O’Neill's overtures obviously fell on deaf ears after Drogheda-born Hearts defender Jimmy Dunne snapped up the offer of a place in the provisional Republic of Ireland squad to play Northern Ireland and Denmark on Tuesday.

Dunne, who qualifies for the North through his grandparents, had been sounded out by Michael O’Neill with a view to transferring his international allegiance, but the former Manchester United trainee has drawn a line over the speculation on his future by committing to the Republic.

“I spoke to young Dunne, he was delighted with the call and I think he genuinely wants to play for us and that’s important,” said Republic manager Martin O’Neill.

“I’ve known from the past that even players involved in a 36/37 man squad always get a lift from that and that was certainly the case when I spoke to young Dunne.”

Dunne, on loan from Burnley, has been an ever-present for SPL frontrunners Hearts this season and his inclusion adds to O’Neill’s options at centre-back.

“I just told him we were keeping an eye on him,” he explained.

“As he said himself, he had a tough old week of it, the Celtic match (a 5-0 loss last Saturday) and then the derby game with Hibs (a 0-0 draw the previous Wednesday).

“But we’re just having a look at him and he was very pleased that we were having a look at him and I think he genuinely wants to play for us.

“But I said to him about the competition ahead of him this minute, we have a number of centre-backs who are playing, young (Darragh) Lenihan at Blackburn and Longy (Kevin Long) gets in now and again for Burnley.

“I know Clarkey (Ciaran Clarke) hasn’t played but I know what he can do. And Shane Duffy’s playing for Brighton so the competition is pretty tough.”

AIDEN McGeady has been left out of the Republic of Ireland squad for next week’s double-header against Northern Ireland and Denmark but the Sunderland winger could force his way back into Martin O’Neill’s plans.

The 92-cap former Celtic star scored both goals in Sunderland’s 2-0 League One victory over Plymouth last weekend and O’Neill – who gave him his debut with the Bhoys back in 2004 – says the 32-year-old could still have something to offer his side.

“He wasn’t on the radar for this game but I haven’t drawn a line under him,” said O’Neill.

“It looks like he’s getting back into some sort of shape, so I wouldn’t (rule him out), no.

“I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time but at some stage or another you either have to move on from it or hope that player can come back and he’s not getting any younger at the end of it all.

“Nice to see that he’s scoring a couple of goals but if you ask me have I drawn a line under his international career, he may well choose not to play any more, I don’t know.

“Hopefully he hasn’t thought about that because you never know, hopefully if he comes back and has a roaring spell over the next couple of months, I don’t think I’m in a position to dismiss anybody like that.”

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