Although absent from this week’s trip to Turkey as he continues his recovery from knee surgery in January, Jon Walters has assured Martin O’Neill that he is not planning to retire from international football.
After Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy announced they were hanging up the green shirt, there was speculation the 34-year-old might follow suit.
But speaking at the Irish squad’s training base in Belek yesterday, O’Neill was happy to report that, all being well, the striker intends to carry on in the service of his county.
“I have spoken to Jon and he is obviously waiting to get over his injury,” said the manager. “I think he is improving. Jon would like to continue, depending on how things go in the next couple of months.
“He can still bring value to the squad because at this minute we have got Shane Long and we have got the two young lads (Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan) now trying to impress, which is great. If he wants to do it, I also think he would be a great influence, a bit like John O’Shea was.
“He has earned that right as well, His performances in getting us to the Euros were fantastic and while he missed a lot of the finals out there in France — which was a major disappointment to him — he has been terrific. He has been really, really committed.
O’Neill thought it was futile to look too far ahead, however, declining to speculate if the Burnley man might still be available should Ireland qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.
“The team might change around,” he pointed out, “lads might come in and be absolutely brilliant and then there is no room for some of the senior boys.”
That such matters can be unpredictable was underlined yesterday when O’Neill revealed the less welcome news that highly-rated Reading midfielder Liam Kelly had declined a call-up for this trip because he is pondering an alternative international future.
“Obviously he’s born in England and wants to keep those options open and that’s fine,” said the manager, though he appeared less than impressed at the 22-year-old’s communication on the issue.