Euro 2016 places up for grabs, insists O'Neill

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The Boys in Green boss is looking to experiment in the end-of-March friendlies and has urged players to take their chance and impress him

Martin O'Neill has insisted that the Republic of Ireland's upcoming friendly games against Switzerland and Slovakia present an opportunity for fringe players to stake a claim for a place in his squad for Euro 2016.

The Boys in Green host Switzerland and Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium on March 25 and 29 respectively and, as O'Neill prepares to whittle his panel down to 23 players, he has urged individuals such as Brentford midfielder Alan Judge and others to show their worth.

Judge, 27, has been in impressive form for Brentford this season, scoring 14 goals in 33 league appearances, but has not yet been capped at senior level. However, he should get a chance when O'Neill names his squad on Friday.

"Some of the players might think it's their first chance," O'Neill said, speaking on RTE's 'Soccer Republic' programme."Some of the players who have been in and around the squad who have not had much playing time.

"In fact, players like Alan Judge for instance, who has had no playing time. He's done exceptionally well.

"There's one or two players i'd like to start. If they don't start against Switzerland, they'll start against Slovakia. It is an opportunity. It's an experimental time I feel, but at the same time I don't want to waste these opportunities."

The Ireland boss has consistently named extended preliminary squads of 38-40 players and he admitted that it will be difficult for him to settle on a final 23 for France.

And, while admitting that there are "a number of players who are absolutely nailed on" to go to the tournament, he stressed that places are "still up for grabs" before June.

"I feel that the players, they'll want to belong to it, they'll want to get there. And that'll be one of the hardest jobs, actually picking the 23," said the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager.

"Now, you may say to me, and I may well agree, that there are a number of players who are absolutely nailed on, injury apart, [players] who have been a massive part of this journey and who have done brilliantly and there is no reason not to select them.

"But there are still places up for grabs and perhaps this is an opportunity here. And at least it's international football, it's against good calibre opposition and why not take that chance?"

Ireland kick off Euro 2016 against Sweden in Paris on June 13, before playing Belgium in Bordeaux on June 18 and Italy in Lille on June 22.

O'Neill will have one final friendly game to prepare for the challenge when Ireland host the Netherlands in Dublin on May 27.

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