James McClean is hoping that intensive rehab work he is undertaking in Dubai will help speed up his recovery from a knee injury in time to make him available for Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off game against Slovakia on March 26.
“It’s a torn MCL and a torn meniscus,” he explained. “They said it was a long-standing tear, so I’ve obviously had it a long time but it wasn’t giving me any trouble.
“They said it would take six weeks, so I’m hoping it’s three or four. I’ve always been a good healer and I’m hoping that's the case this time around.”
One major irritant for the Stoke City winger is the knee brace he has had to wear since sustaining the injury.
“This thing has been on for nine days and it’s annoying me,” he said.
“It’s driving me insane that I can’t do the things that I normally do, and it’s only been two weeks since the injury. Hopefully, it’ll only be for another week or two but we’ll see. I’ve had a good week of training here in Dubai.”
Meanwhile, Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is confident that he will have Enda Stevens available for the crunch game in Bratislava after the wing-back picked up a calf strain in Sheffield United's 1-1 draw with Brighton on Saturday, a game in which he also scored a memorable goal.
“It was a hell of a shot from Enda,” McCarthy told FAI.ie. “I’ve seen it described as a screamer in one report and that’s exactly what it was.
“Enda has been on top form for Sheffield United and for Ireland all season and it’s nice to see him amongst the goals now as well. We’ll take goals from anywhere in Bratislava at the end of March so the more Irish players scoring right now, the better, as far as I’m concerned.
“As for his injury, he was taken off more as a precaution than anything else and Chris Wilder hopes to have Enda available for the Premier League game against Norwich on Saturday week. If he gets back in time for that one then he will have plenty of time for first-team action before we meet up in Dublin on March 24th.”
McCarthy was also pleased with the goal-scoring exploits of Shane Long, Callum Robinson, Scott Hogan, and Alan Browne.
“I can have no complaints about the flow of goals at present,” the manager said. “Shane has played himself right back into the reckoning at Southampton, not because of his two goals in recent weeks but because he is playing week in and week out and showing the benefits of that.
“Scott has really got himself back into the picture for Slovakia with his goals for Birmingham and his finish on Saturday was top class and timely while Terry (Connor) was impressed with Callum’s all-round game against Bristol City, as well as with his ‘lucky’ header for his second goal in as many games.
“Alan Browne used his head as well for his goal. We just need them all to keep playing and keep scoring going into March.”
For his part, McCarthy ran the rule over some of his midfield contenders at the weekend, as he watched Jason Knight and Harry Arter in Derby’s draw with Fulham, and James McCarthy in action for Crystal Palace in their win against Newcastle United.
“Jason is doing well at Derby and he has really made the first-team breakthrough this season which is great for us,” said McCarthy.
“James did exactly what I knew he would do for Palace. He does the simple things well, sits in front of the back four and controls things for them. Like Shane at Southampton, he is benefiting from regular first-team football.”
McCarthy will name his squad for the Slovakia game on March 13.