James McCarthy’s belated return to the Ireland squad could be confirmed today when Martin O’Neill names his extended panel for the friendly against Northern Ireland and concluding Nations League match with Denmark.
The Everton midfielder has not played a competitive match for Ireland in over two years, primarily due to the double-leg fracture he suffered in January, but returned to full training six weeks ago.
Toffees boss Marco Silva has understandably applied kid gloves to the 27-year-old’s comeback, affording him a start for the club’s U23 team last week against Manchester City, and O’Neill could do with having his presence in midfield for the final games of the year.
One Toffee certain to feature on the long list is Seamus Coleman, who missed last month’s double-header against Wales and Denmark due to a stress fracture on his foot.
Ireland welcome neighbours Northern Ireland to Lansdowne Road on Thursday week before travelling to Aarhus for the rematch against Denmark on Monday, November 19.
Having claimed just a point from their three games in the new series so far, Ireland are in major danger of finishing bottom of their three-nation group. A draw for the Danes in Cardiff on Friday week would mean Ireland make the trip guaranteed to prop up the table and therefore be relegated to League C, and lose their second seeding for the Euro 2020 qualifying draw in Dublin on Sunday, December 2.
Another long-term absentee, Robbie Brady, is a definite inclusion following a successful return to action for Burnley.
The winger’s serious knee injury kept him out of Ireland’s matches in 2018 but he played the full 90 minutes against Chelsea before coming on for the final 13 minutes of the Clarets’ game against West Ham on Saturday.
O’Neill’s squad will be a Hammers-free zone as Declan Rice prolongs his international exile.
The 19-year-old who made three appearances for Ireland in senior friendlies, is mulling over his future since opting out of Ireland’s Nations League campaign in September, a move which allows him switch allegiance to England, and his homeland remain favourites to acquire his services.
Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate upped the charm offensive by inviting Rice and his father Seán to their training base at St George’s Park, using the trip as a sale pitch.
Only last month O’Neill reasserted his belief that Ireland were still in contention to retain the player’s services. Either way, a decision by the player is expected over the next month.
Of those players that are available to O’Neill, he could reward Ryan Manning’s form with a maiden call-up. The Galway native has shone at loan with Rotherham United from QPR, coming off the bench on Saturday to score a brace in their 2-1 win over Swansea City.
David McGoldrick is another contender but he is still licking his wounds a year after being excluded from the bench for the final World Cup qualifier in Wales.
There is also speculation that Tottenham teen Troy Parrott could be drafted in, at least to train with the squad for the Northern Ireland workout. The striker doesn’t turn 17 until February.