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Thursday 8 December 2016

Walters in fitness race for Sweden

Jonathan Walters
Jonathan Walters

Jon Walters is now the primary preoccupation of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as the clock kicks towards kick-off against Sweden.

Robbie Brady, like Walters sat out yesterday's training with a back spasm but is not seen as a major worry.

Keane revealed that there been some improvement in Walter's aching Achilles and that he would be given as much time as he needs and then some to prove his fitness for Ireland's Euro 2016 opener on Monday.

"It's not ideal but I think Jon has earned the right, the benefit of the doubt and a few more days to get ready for the game," said Keane.

"I think there has been improvement and Jon's body language is a lot more positive but we'll have to give it a few more days on that one," he added.

"Jon's role in the team is the type of character he is, his work rate, the spirit he has shown, the quality he has shown. So I think if the manager, if we have to give him an extra, up to Sunday or whatever to see if he can be involved, I'm sure he would get the benefit of that doubt.

Neither O'Neill nor Keane have looked too much further than Monday but they still have an option open to them to appeal to UEFA and call in Kevin Doyle on medical grounds if Walters does not recover his fitness.

"No, I don't think we're at that stage please God. I don't think we're looking at it long term. In a sense we're all just focussing on the first match and we'd be concerned if he can't get involved by the weekend.

"After Monday the games will come thick and fast. We're all saying 'oh it's been a nice week or two' but when the tournament kicks off I think it'll be over before we know it.

"But we haven't had that conversation that Jon won't be available for any games and it's a conversation we don't want to have."

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