Tuesday 25 September 2018

Clock is ticking down for Euro hopefuls

Arter struggles but Walters is upbeat

Ireland's Jon Walters. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Jon Walters. Photo: Sportsfile

His players have the luxury of returning to club duty this weekend to take their minds off what is to come between now and June, but Martin O'Neill now has 58 days to plan for that moment when he submits his 23-man squad to UEFA for the European Championship finals.

And while the Ireland training ground was a crowded place last week with 34 bodies around, including U21 cap Jack Byrne when he was drafted in to train with the seniors, the field of contenders for France 2016 will only get more congested.

Harry Arter, David McGoldrick and Jeff Hendrick, who all missed the friendly games against Switzerland and Slovakia, are either back in contention for their clubs this weekend or are close to a return, while the news on injured striker Jon Walters and Daryl Murphy is also upbeat, both men sidelined due to injury for now but both planning a rapid return to club action.


Fears were raised that Walters, Ireland's player of the year in 2015, could potentially miss out on the tournament as he needed surgery on a knee problem but Walters has done his sums and plans to be back fully fit before the end of this month, in plenty of time for the date in late May when the squad assemble in Dublin.

"I've had a similar one [operation] done before and was back playing in less than three weeks so I'll be grand," he told independent.ie.

Murphy came on as a sub in the win over Switzerland but was then replaced, complaining of a calf problem.

That injury, a grade-one calf tear, will keep him out of the Ipswich squad to face Wolves tomorrow but Murphy and his manager Mick McCarthy plan a rapid return.

Hendrick reported to Dublin for the internationals but a shoulder problem saw him return to his club for treatment, though he's over the worst and is back in the Derby County squad to face Cardiff City tomorrow. Hendrick will make the 23-man squad if fit so there's no major panic there but Arter and McGoldrick, who have yet to play in a competitive international, have more reasons to be fearful as they are running of of time.

McGoldrick may be on the bench for Ipswich at Wolves tomorrow but with only one game, in an U21 match, under his belt since January, McCarthy is unwilling to risk the forward and with only seven games left in the season after that, time is against McGoldrick.

Arter is further up on O'Neill's list and he has a genuine chance of making the squad but the May date with Holland is now vital, he accepts, "Whether or not I go to the Euros will be largely down to me. I told Martin O'Neill that I would play through anything to prove myself but he told me not to be silly," says Arter.

"He was very supportive and said he knew what I could do. He just wanted me to get fit and assured me the games weren't that important.

"There is still time to show what I can do and, hopefully, I will get a chance in the friendly against Holland before he names the squad for France."

Arter's club-mate Eunan O'Kane made a big impression on O'Neill and his staff with his two displays against Switzerland and Slovakia over the last week and is a contender.

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