John O’Shea’s Ireland squad announcement overshadowed by Damien Duff’s remarks

Shane Duffy selected for Hungary and Portugal games despite drink driving charge, with Leicester’s Tom Cannon receiving a first call-up

Republic of Ireland interim manager John O’Shea’s squad announcement in Dublin on Tuesday was overtaken by external events involving Damien Duff, Wayne Rooney and Shane Duffy.

Duff wants his old team-mate to be coaching “on the grass every day”, the Shelbourne manager suggesting that O’Shea should have turned down a second stint as the FAI stopgap, until they make a permanent appointment before the Nations League match against England on September 7th.

Duff said that the FAI’s stalled recruitment process to replace Stephen Kenny has “hung John out to dry”.

“Damien is entitled to his opinion,” O’Shea replied. “I don’t feel that’s the case.”


Rooney, meanwhile, returned to management at Plymouth Argyle this week, and considering he brought his former Manchester United team-mate to Birmingham City last year, it was suggested that this might address Duff’s concern about the 43-year-old’s coaching education.

“I’ve been coaching now for a good few years,” O’Shea responded. “Full-on, day to day, for a long time at different clubs and with the Ireland 21s ... on the grass, learning about players, learning about the squad.

“The first chance I have to be a manager is to manage my country so that’s what I’m really enjoying and looking forward to doing for the next two games.”

He remained coy about working with Rooney at Plymouth next season.

Doubt over Duffy’s selection was unavoidable as the veteran defender is due before Norwich Magistrates’ Court on July 2nd, on drink driving charges following a two-car collision earlier this month.

“I spoke to Shane just to see where he was in terms of the end of the season, and the stuff that had gone on. He was unequivocal in terms of his passion to play for Ireland and to be involved. It’s obviously not good but we have to support people as well – he’s been a big player for Ireland.

“That’s part and parcel of life,” O’Shea added, “people make mistakes but they have the chance to redeem themselves as well.”

Other squad news in advance of the friendlies against Hungary at the Aviva Stadium next Tuesday and in Portugal on June 11th revealed that Leicester City striker Tom Cannon accepted a call-up despite recent interest from the English FA.

Cannon needs to play three times (one competitive) for the Irish under-21s or senior team to become ineligible for England. Declan Rice is the last player to be capped for Ireland in 2018 before changing his mind and committing to Gareth Southgate’s set-up.

“I can only take a person at the conversation we had,” said O’Shea. “He’s looking forward to it and excited to come in for these two games. Let’s wait and see, I’m sure it will be the case that he will be committed.”

There is a lengthy absentee list. Evan Ferguson, Nathan Collins, John Egan and Gavin Bazunu are injured while Alan Browne is out of contract at Preston North End and unavailable until he finds a club. Festy Ebosele has “some physical issues” after a tough campaign with Udinese in Serie A and Chiedozie Ogbene cannot play due to family reasons.

Troy Parrott is named among five forwards, which includes in-form Blackburn Rovers attacker Sammie Szmodics and Adam Idah, who scored the winner for Celtic against Rangers in last Saturday’s Scottish Cup final. Parrott will struggle to be available for Hungary as his club Excelsior play NAC Breda in the Dutch relegation play-off second leg on Sunday.

Andrew Moran, Barnet goalkeeper Josh Keeley and Celtic midfielder Bosun Lawal will train with the group in Abbotstown before joining Jim Crawford’s under-21s for friendlies against Croatia and England.

Kenny’s management tried and failed to solve the annual summer conundrum; the EFL Championship regular season finished on May 4th, 31 days before the Hungary game – a gap that previously caused damage to Irish football. Nations League defeats to Armenia and Ukraine in 2022 ruined any chance of Ireland qualifying for Euro 2024 via a play-off and efforts to address this in 2023, with camps in Bristol and in Turkey, ended up with a 2-1 loss to Gus Poyet’s Greece in Athens. This time around, 14 of the current squad are a month into their off-season.

“Look, it is what it is, we can’t change it. We just hope that the professionalism of the lads will take care of it and we can change that cycle because, as you mentioned, different things have been tried. It’s great that some lads [are still playing], whether it be the Celtic lads, Jake [O’Brien], Will [Smallbone], obviously Troy is still going. They’ve had that extension, so hopefully that will help.”

Republic of Ireland Squad – Hungary/Portugal

Goalkeepers: Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Max O’Leary (Bristol City), David Harrington (Fleetwood Town).

Defenders: Séamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Shane Duffy (Norwich City), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Jake O’Brien (Lyon), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Liam Scales (Celtic), Robbie Brady (Preston North End), Enda Stevens (Stoke City).

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Finn Azaz (Middlesbrough), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Mikey Johnston (West Bromwich Albion, on loan from Celtic).

Forwards: Sammie Szmodics (Blackburn Rovers), Adam Idah (Celtic, on loan from Norwich City), Troy Parrott (Excelsior, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Obafemi (Millwall, on loan from Burnley), Tom Cannon (Leicester City).

Fixtures – international friendlies

04/06 – Republic of Ireland v Hungary, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm

11/06 – Portugal v Republic of Ireland, Aveiro Municipal Stadium, 7.45pm

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent