O'Neill hopes Jonathan Walters will return to play for Ireland

Martin O'Neill is hopeful that Jonathan Walters is ready to continue his Republic of Ireland career at the age of 34.

Burnley striker Walters, who is currently recovering from a knee injury which has kept him out of the Ireland squad for Friday's friendly in Turkey, has seen fellow senior men Daryl Murphy and Wes Hoolahan announce their retirements from international football since the Republic's World Cup play-off defeat by Denmark.

However, he has indicated to O'Neill that he wants to continue in the green jersey.

The manager said: "I think Jon would like to continue, depending on how things go in the next couple of months. I think Jon will still want to play when he is 64!

"He was very, very positive a couple of months ago and I met him down in London when he came down to a check up on how is injury was going.

"He's still pretty keen, so hopefully that keenness will improve as his injury improves."

Walters has 51 senior caps and has been a major figure for his country in recent campaigns, although he played only a peripheral role at the Euro 2016 finals because of injury, and O'Neill is keen to retain his influence on and off the field.

I think that 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 (Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire) now trying to impress, which is great. I also think he would be a great influence as well, a bit like John O'Shea was.

At the other end of the spectrum, Manchester United keeper Kieran O'Hara is one of those hoping to take the first step in his senior international career having embraced the challenge of reaching the standards set at his club by David de Gea.

The 21-year-old, who signed a new two and a half-year contract at Old Trafford in December, said: "Of course it's a challenge, but that's why you are in this game, for challenges and to overcome challenges.

"A lot of people say it's a negative thing, but for me, I turn that negative into a positive because it's me who gets to train with him every day and learn from him every day, to see how he deals with certain situations and take those things into my game.

"For me, that's only going to make me into a better goalkeeper, it's only to going to develop me into the goalkeeper that I want to be."

PA


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