Mick McCarthy says Shane Long is “back where we need him to be” to stake a claim for a place on the plane to Slovakia, while the manager is prepared to give Ciaran Clark and James McClean as long as he can to see if they are able to recover from injury in time for Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off on March 26.
With Stoke City’s McClean already a doubt, Newcastle United defender Clark added to McCarthy’s worries when he sustained what his club boss Steve Bruce termed a serious-looking ankle injury against Arsenal on Sunday.
“I sent Ciaran a text on Monday wishing him well and assuring him that we will give him all the time he needs to get fit for Slovakia,” said McCarthy.
“Like with James, we have to wait for Ciaran’s injury to settle down before we know the full prognosis. The game in Bratislava is still five weeks away on Thursday and I will give both players as long as I can.
“You just don’t know at first with these injuries. I’ve seen everything from two weeks to eight weeks for James’ recovery so I will check in with him again later this week and see how he is doing.”
McCarthy was impressed with what he saw of Irish players in action in two games on England’s south coast at the weekend, first as Southampton took on Burnley in the Premier League and then as Portsmouth played host to Shrewsbury Town in League One.
“The early kick-off at Southampton made it an easy double for me and I was glad I did make the trip,” McCarthy told FAI.ie. “Shane Long looked fit against Burnley, he’s got that athleticism back and the sharpness that comes with playing regular first team football. He was competitive throughout the game and he’s back where we need him to be to push for a place on the plane to Slovakia, which is good news.
“Ronan Curtis is making his claim for the play-off as well. He didn’t score against Shrewsbury but you could see how confident he is at the minute. He’s on top form with Pompey and he did well on Saturday.”
McCarthy’s coaching staff have also been busy, with Callum Robinson - who scored his first West Brom goal against Nottingham Forest on Saturday - Darragh Lenihan at Blackburn and Glenn Whelan at Fleetwood Town, all coming under their radar.
“Terry Connor was at the West Brom-Forest game and he was impressed with Callum, not just with the goal but with the way he is playing in his best position which is out on the left and coming in on his right foot, which is exactly what he did for the goal,” said McCarthy.
“Darragh is one of the most consistent defenders in the Championship this season. Robbie Keane was really taken with him when he played against Middlesbrough at the start of the month and he was good again on Saturday.
“Glenn has made Fleetwood tough to beat since he went there. They haven’t been beaten in the six games he has played in and he was Man of the Match against Peterborough at the weekend. That’ll do for me.”