Wednesday 26 October 2016

O'Neill worry about jinxed james

O’Neill will be taking McCarthy to France, even if he doesn’t play in either of the warm-up games against Holland and Belarus: David Maher/Sportsfile
O’Neill will be taking McCarthy to France, even if he doesn’t play in either of the warm-up games against Holland and Belarus: David Maher/Sportsfile

Now we must all worry about jinxed James, the man unlucky enough to be the subject of the first major Euro 2016 injury story.

It's not quite time for telling the granny to get out the rosary beads,but McCarthy's injury is very worrying.

Those who know about these things say that an injury behind the hamstring relates to the tendon and takes a long time to heal.

Martin O'Neill described James McCarthy's problem in those terms and the key to rehab is time and physio. Kid gloves have been primed and softened.

Looking back over McCarthy's injury history, he's had a lot of trouble in the same general area and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he has been managing this for a long time.

Cast your mind back to Giovanni Trapattoni's use of the megaphone on Roberto Martinez, then Wigan boss, over McCarthy's availability.

Martinez was insistent at all times that McCarthy need the summer break to recover and had a complete intolerance for June friendly internationals.


McCarthy's knocks always seem to take longer to heal than expected and with this type of injury, recurrence is always an issue.

He has previous surgery in the area and in the last week, two scans which, O'Neill claims, show no damage but pain can persist and prevent full extension of the hamstring.

There is also the mental impact of an ongoing twinge at the back of a professional sportsman's leg, particularly one who could do with a decent Euro 2016 tournament to make up for back-to-back seasons interrupted by injury.

If McCarthy himself doubts his ability to play at full pace, O'Neill has a real problem.

But all of that aside, it is still easy to understand why O'Neill told us that he will be taking McCarthy to France, even if he doesn't play in either of the warm-up games against Holland and Belarus.

"James is taking a little bit longer than we possibly thought. It's to do with the injury that he came off for Everton (v Southampton). I'm just a little bit concerned about it. I think for the longer term he should be okay.

"In an ideal circumstances it would be nice for him to play on Friday but that might not be the case, certainly if he doesn't train, I wouldn't put him in.

O'Neill pinpointed the precise location of the injury but not the precise nature.

"It's right at the back of the hamstring but the scans have been fine and that's encouraging in that sense. It doesn't show anything," said the Ireland boss.

"He just wants to be right. Naturally he wants to train as well but we've got time."

Has McCarthy has been the decision-maker so far in terms of his ability to train?

"I think it's a combination with the doctor telling me and James himself. We do have a few days," he said. "There's still a fairly decent chance that James would come with us unless something is amiss.

"He would be a doubt for Friday's game, he needs some work on it. I would say I'm fairly certain, but I've been wrong before about these particular things,that if he wasn't fit for Friday he could play Tuesday and if he wasn't available on Tuesday, I would still like to take him as I think he's going to be ok."

O'Neill confirmed that he will not be making public his final squad before he tells the players the good or bad news as the case may be.

But he also revealed that he has already told some of the lucky 23 that they are travelling and before the weekend is over, up to "90%" of those with golden tickets will be able to relax.

"I will have told a lot of players they will be going. Some of them will be disappointed, that's true, but I can't help that.

"Because we have to play the games because we need the matches, you have to run the risk of someone getting injured. It's the same in training. I saw one or two lads go down and it was disconcerting for a second or two," he said.

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