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McCarthy is back in the Irish frame

James McCarthy

It is fitting that James McCarthy returns to Goodison Park today after crossing a statistical landmark which highlights the scale of his recovery at Crystal Palace.

When the Irish midfielder made it through the halfway point of last weekend's game with Sheffield United, his tally of Premier League minutes this campaign was greater than his total in his final three seasons with Everton.

That's really should be good news for Ireland with March's play-off against Slovakia in mind. The jury remains out on whether Mick McCarthy will find room for the midfielder in his plans.

He did give the 29-year-old a mention in a recent FAI scouting report in the context of his performance in a game with Southampton.

The manager will be pressed on his visit to Dublin next week about any further contact with McCarthy.

The Irish boss wasn't especially enamoured when the player opted against coming into camps in the autumn while he was trying to establish himself at Crystal Palace. An outing against New Zealand was on the cards but "personal reasons" prevented the midfielder from taking it up.

After a luckless run that genuinely placed questions over his longevity, it's understandable that a performer who got a lot of miles on the clock in his youth should seek to get club business back on track as a starting point.

Following an unbroken run of games, it now looks as though he's back in the groove to the extent where he has to be a serious Irish candidate.