SIX Lancashire-based players have been called up to the provisional Republic of Ireland squad for their FIFA World Cup qualifiers in two weeks against Wales and Iceland.
Burnley have a trio of talent in the 39-man line-up; left-back Stephen Ward, left-midfielder Robbie Brady and central midfielder Jeff Hendrick have all been called up by Martin O’Neill.
Championship high-flyers Preston North End also have three players set for international duty. On-loan Everton winger Aiden McGeady, plus January arrivals Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle, all appear in the squad.
Controversially though, there is no call-up yet again for Lilywhites left-back Greg Cunningham. The 26-year old – thought of as one of the best full-backs in the second tier – was last called up for his nation in 2013, when he was playing for Bristol City, but O’Neill has chosen to omit the Galway-born man once again.
McGeady has gone through somewhat of a renaissance since his loan move to Deepdale, earning the Championship Player of the Month for February after notching three goals and four assists in five games.
Horgan and Boyle have impressed since their moves from League of Ireland champions Dundalk in January, with the latter only making his debut for North End last week against Derby County.
Despite their loss to Liverpool in the Premier League yesterday, Burnley are exceeding expectations in 12th position, and the Irish threesome have been ever-present in the starting line-up this season, and have surely impressed O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane when they have been in attendance at Turf Moor.
FULL PROVISIONAL 39-MAN REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD TO FACE WALES AND ICELAND
Goalkeepers: Colin Doyle (Bradford City), Rob Elliot (Newcastle United), Darren Randolph (West Ham United), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce (Derby County), Paul McShane (Reading), ANDY BOYLE (PRESTON NORTH END) John O’Shea (Sunderland), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), John Egan (Brentford), STEPHEN WARD (BURNLEY), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Midfielders: AIDEN MCGEADY, DARYL HORGAN (PRESTON NORTH END), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), James McCarthy (Everton), JEFF HENDRICK, ROBBIE BRADY (BURNLEY), David Meyler (Hull City), Liam Kelly (Reading), Darron Gibson (Sunderland), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds United), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff City), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion)
Forwards: Kevin Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Shane Long (Southampton), David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town), Daryl Murphy (Newcastle United), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)