All eyes will be on James McCarthy when, if all goes according to plan, the Everton midfielder joins the rest of the Irish squad for training at Turner’s Cross today.
Struggling with a hamstring problem, McCarthy sat out training all last week and missed Friday’s game against the Netherlands.
O’Neill indicated after that match that it would take “a dramatic improvement” over the weekend for the player to feature against Belarus tomorrow night, and the likelihood is that even if further progress is reported today, he will not be risked for the game at Turner’s Cross.
Asked if he would still name McCarthy in his Euros squad should the midfielder’s fitness remain a doubt by UEFA’s 11pm deadline tomorrow, O’Neill replied: “I’ll be guided by him and Alan (Dr Alan Byrne), really, on that one. Remember the games in France come thick and fast. But you can’t be thinking that every single player will be alright for every one of the games. In an ideal world, it would be great.
“But James, I think, has earned the right to be one of those to have consideration at least to the very last moment. Seriously, I think he’ll be OK. That’s my view. And also worth waiting on, as well.”
Whether O’Neill thinks the same of David Meyler, Keiren Westwood and David Forde when it comes to filling in the final 23 remains to be seen.
Meyler is back in his native Cork after coming on as a substitute to help Hull City to promotion to the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley on Saturday but, despite an outstanding performance in goal in the Championship play-off, Keiren Westwood suffered the pain of ending up on the losing side. His fellow ‘keeper David Forde also experienced that sinking feeling as he looked on helplessly from the bench while his Millwall team were losing the League 1 decider, 3-1 to Barnsley, yesterday.
After a weekend break for most of the Irish players – although injury worry Ciarán Clark was one of those who took part in a short session in Dublin on Saturday - the scene has now shifted to the squad’s Fota Island training base in Cork where they will remain until Friday.
Wednesday night will see Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and the players in the Cork Opera House for a special event billed as a ‘Bon Voyage To The Boys In Green’ but the real focus of attention this week will be on tomorrow night’s Euros squad announcement which follows the friendly against Belarus at Turner’s Cross.
The opposition arrives in Cork on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Northern Ireland in the latter’s Euros farewell friendly at Windsor Park on Friday.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved