Martin O’Neill will give striker Sean Maguire the chance to prove he is ready for international football after calling him up to the senior squad for the first time.
The 23-year-old, who joined Sky Bet Championship Preston from Cork City last month, has been touted as a possible new face for several months with Robbie Keane’s retirement from international football having left a gap which is yet to be plugged.
O’Neill has previously resisted the clamour, but included Maguire in a provisional 39-man party for next month’s qualifiers against Georgia and Serbia when he named it on Monday.
He told a press conference: “I have seen a bit more of him now and it’s a chance for him to come into the group and feel a bit more comfortable with it.
“That’s the way to give him a chance to be really ready when he finally does make a debut.”
O’Neill will reduce his squad before getting to work in earnest in Dublin on August 28 ahead of the trip to Tbilisi on September 2 and the home clash with the Serbs which follows three days later.
Ireland currently sit in second place in Group D behind Serbia on goal difference knowing September’s double header could have a major say in their fate.
Maguire is likely to have to remain patient with Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, David McGoldrick and Kevin Doyle currently ahead of him in the pecking order.
But with 20 Airtricity League goals in 14 appearances for Cork to his name this season before he headed for Deepdale, he has demonstrated a potency which both club and country will hope he can carry forward.
Maguire is joined in the 39 by uncapped duo Matt Doherty of Wolves and Reading’s Liam Kelly, but it is the return of Rob Elliot, Paul McShane, Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Shane Long and Kevin Doyle, who all missed the games against Mexico, Uruguay and Austria at the end of season, which has perhaps given greater cause for optimism.
There have been significant summer moves too for key members of the squad, including new Middlesbrough keeper Darren Randolph, Aston Villa midfielder Glenn Whelan and Walters, who has joined Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long at Burnley.
O’Neill said: “All that’s good for us. We want our players playing as much as possible. Now we just have to hope that as many of the players will be able to turn up for the games after they have two or three more matches for their club.
“You are always hoping that everyone will be available.”
One man who is unlikely to see action for his country until 2018 is skipper Seamus Coleman as he continues his recovery from a double leg fracture.
However, Everton’s revelation that he has been able to step up his rehabilitation in recent days was welcomed by his international manager.
O’Neill said: “I spoke to him 10 days ago and he said he was coming back well from the leg break. It’s early days yet, but it is really encouraging.”
Republic of Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), Colin Doyle (Bradford City)
Defenders: Cyrus Christie (Middlesbrough), Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce (Derby County), Paul McShane (Reading), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), John O’Shea (Sunderland), John Egan (Brentford), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End), Kevin Long, Stephen Ward (Burnley), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Midfielders: Aiden McGeady (Sunderland), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion), Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady (Burnley), James McCarthy (Everton), Stephen Quinn, Liam Kelly (Reading), David Meyler (Hull City), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Jonathan Hayes (Celtic), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan (Preston North End)
Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Burnley), Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest), David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town), Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Sean Maguire (Preston North End)