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Clark returns six months after injury

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Ciaran Clark. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciaran Clark. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciaran Clark. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny's defensive options for next month's international triple header are about to improve as Ciaran Clark will end his six-month absence due to injury tonight.

And forgotten man Richard Keogh, whose Ireland career appeared to be over when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in a controversial road accident while on a night out with Derby County team-mates, is also making progress and is closer to a return.

Kenny's central defence looked less than convincing in the opening two games in the Nations League and the Republic have kept just one clean sheet in the last seven games.

Kenny had spoken of his admiration for Clark when he was appointed manager and he will be relieved to hear Newcastle boss Steve Bruce promise some game time for Clark in tonight's League Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers. Clark has been sidelined since he suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal in February.

"Ciaran Clark, who hasn't played for a long time, will play and there's some players who need a game but the squad is big enough to make those changes and let's hope we can get through to the next round," Bruce said ahead of the clash with Championship side Blackburn.

"We'll take it seriously but the competition this year is condensed by seven weeks so we'll play more games. I have a squad and I will make changes but when I look at the strength we have I still expect us to try and get through."

Keogh (34) left Derby over the summer and dropped down a division, to MK Dons. He's now back in full training with the League One side, having been out of action since a knee injury, sustained while he was a passenger in a car driven by a Derby team-mate who was later convicted of drink driving, and Keogh was then axed by the Rams.

MK Dons manager Russell Martin says he's been impressed by Keogh's attitude during his rehab. "I think people have forgotten about him because he signed really early for us, but he will be a massive signing for the club."