Glenn Whelan is defying the odds to put himself back in the frame for Friday night’s Euro qualifier in Glasgow.
Whelan was initially left out of Martin O’Neill’s slimmed down squad when it was announced early yesterday but, after training with his club Stoke City, the midfielder — who is making a faster than expected recovery from a leg fracture — was able to fly into Dublin last night to join the rest of his colleagues at their Portmarnock hotel base.
Whelan will now be closely monitored over the next few days before a final decision is made on whether he will be fit enough to feature at Celtic Park on Friday.
O’Neill will also be anxious to hear more from Robbie Keane after the striker admitted to recently suffering with back and hamstring problems which he made light of by scoring a goal and making three others in LA Galaxy’s 5-0 drubbing Real Salt Lake in the MLS play-offs on Sunday.
“I felt awful before the game,” said Ireland’s skipper. “Bad back for the last two days. Bad hamstring. I wasn’t feeling great until the game started moving.”
Everton’s James McCarthy, nursing a hamstring problem, joined up with the squad last night and he too will be assessed this morning.
However, centre-half Marc Wilson, another hamstring casualty, and goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, have both been forced out of the final squad which, including Whelan, now numbers 28.
Two brand new additions are Ipswich striker David McGoldrick and Derby County full back Cyrus Christie, two dual-eligibility players whose arrival in the Irish camp comes after protracted paperwork needed to secure their passports.
Meanwhile, Jon Walters believes that, after a productive weekend in English club football, the Irish squad is in great form ahead of the big game in Glasgow.
“We are going into the Scotland game full of confidence,” Walters told Goal.com. “Shane [Long] scored for Southampton, Seamus [Coleman] and James [McCarthy] are back for Everton and Daryl Murphy is on fire at Ipswich, so hopefully the confidence from the club teams will push us on.
“It’s going to be a great game. Everyone is going to be wanting to play and it’s going to be a great occasion, with it being at Celtic Park. Hopefully we will look back on it with a happy result.”
Walters’ form with Stoke is good, scoring his fourth goal of the season in the Potters 2-1 win at Tottenham this weekend. He has played wide, as a striker or behind the striker for Stoke and both Giovanni Trapattoni and O’Neill have picked him in different roles for Ireland. The 31-year-old admits he prefers the striker’s role but will play wherever he is told.
He said: “My versatility has been a problem that I have had for many years, I always said I would prefer to play up front.
“But I’ll play where I’m asked whether it’s the right or the left or behind the striker.”
Meanwhile Scotland’s assistant manager Mark McGhee believes respect rather than rancour will dominate the qualifier.
Much of the attention will be on the visitors’ Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy, two Scottish-born players who opted to play for the country of their grandparents.
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan has no problem with the Tartan Army booing the duo as long as it is for footballing reasons, but former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen insists they deserve “a horrible reception” for pledging their allegiance to Ireland.
McGhee, however, does not believes the Scotland supporters will target McGeady and McCarthy.
Speaking yesterday, he said: “I can’t imagine that. I really can’t see that.
“I think it has the makings of a hugely competitive game, but I think it is a game that will be played in the best spirit. I don’t think there will be any other issues.”
REP OF IRELAND SQUAD: David Forde, Shay Given, Rob Elliot, Darren Randolph, Richard Keogh, Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, John O’Shea, Alex Pearce, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Anthony Pilkington, James McClean, Robbie Brady, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, David McGoldrick, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Anthony Stokes.