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Saturday 16 December 2017

Walters boost for Irish hopes

Jonathan Walters. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Jonathan Walters. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Jonathan Walters is making progress in his battle to be fit in time for next month's World Cup qualifier against Wales after he rejoined his Stoke City team-mates for training.

Walters has been out for two months due to an ankle injury which forced him to undergo surgery, and his club were unable to set a date for his return. He was also a concern for Martin O'Neill as he tried to plan for the Dublin date with Wales in March.

The 33-year-old is still a bit away from match fitness but Stoke boss Mark Hughes revealed that Walters is fit enough to take part in training, although fellow injury victims Xherdan Shaqiri and Geoff Cameron are ahead of him.

"Walts is maybe a little bit behind the two guys I have just mentioned but he is making good progress too and came outside with the group for a little bit this morning, which was a positive for us," Hughes said yesterday.

While O'Neill is of course pleased with the start to the World Cup qualifying campaign, which has seen Ireland top the table heading into 2017, the forward positions were a concern for the Ireland boss.

Shane Long is scoring goals for Southampton - four goals in seven games over the last two months - but game-time is limited for the 30-year-old.

Daryl Murphy enjoyed a scoring streak early in the New Year but he has also been starved of action lately at Newcastle United so a return to action with Stoke for Walters in time for the Wales game would increase O'Neill's options for that tie.

O'Neill names his squad for the game on March 13th.

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