Jon Walters fitness a cause for concern

Martin O’Neill has a fresh injury concern with the news that Jon Walters is to undergo knee surgery.
Jon Walters fitness a cause for concern

Although the procedure has been described as “minor” — and despite Stoke City manager Mark Hughes saying that the player would be merely sidelined for “a little bit” — there is bound to be concern about the 33-year-old recovering in time to be match fit for Ireland’s much anticipated World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on March 24.

Walters’ knee swelled up after he scored Stoke’s only goal in their 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield just after Christmas and the decision has now been made that the striker will go under the knife in a bid to rectify the problem.

“We are missing Jonny Walters, unfortunately, who is suffering a problem with his knee,” said Mark Hughes ahead of Stoke’s trip to Burnley today.

“As a consequence of that he is going to be missing for a little bit, so that leaves us short up front.”

Walters, who was named Ireland’s player of the year of 2015 after playing a pivotal role in qualification for Euro 2016, had surgery to repair a knee cartilage problem in March last year.

But, although he recovered to make the squad for the finals, an Achilles injury which surfaced during pre-tournament training in Cork, subsequently restricted his input in France.

Meanwhile, Stephen Kenny has won the personality of the year award for 2016 at the annual SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers of Ireland ceremony in Dublin.

Cork City’s Mark McNulty was named goalkeeper of the year. It was the second time both men had received the prestigious accolades.

For Kenny, the award was in recognition of his achievement in leading Dundalk to a third successive league title and guiding his team through a memorable campaign in Europe.

Dundalk were only denied a second successive double by league runners-up Cork City, with ‘keeper McNulty, consistent throughout the season, playing a key role in the Leesider’s FAI Cup triumph at the Aviva Stadium.

At the gala dinner in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel, Martin O’Neill made a special presentation, on behalf of the SWAI, to Robbie Keane, who retired from international football in 2016 as the national team’s record goalscorer with 68 goals.

Keane, in turn, made a presentation, again on behalf of the soccer writers, to Brendan Bradley, the all-time League of Ireland goal-scorer with 235 goals. In a small piece of history, the occasion marked the first time the international and domestic record-holders were pictured together.

At a ceremony which was also attended by Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, the Liam Tuohy Special Merit award was presented to the veteran Joe Veselsky.

The Slovakian has had a long association with the League of Ireland, first through Shamrock Rovers, where he was a director in 1970s, and later at UCD, where he has been executive life president since 1987.

A jeweller by profession, for many years Joe provided an engraved watch to the winner of the personality of the year award.

Born in 1918, he has also been a leading figure in Irish table tennis for many years.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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