“All good, very good”.
With those four words — and an equally encouraging smile — Jon Walters gave a quick hello and goodbye to the media as he left the Stade de Montbauron after another solo training session in which he’d worked behind one of the goals with a physio, bending, running, twisting, passing a ball back and forth.
Martin O’Neill also sounded upbeat as he went into rather more detail about all of his walking — but some now running — wounded.
“Jon trained on his own,” he confirmed, “but the other two lads, Robbie Keane and Robbie Brady, are doing fine, they joined in there, as you saw and, yeah, I don’t think they’re feeling any ill-effects.
“Jon is improving and I’ll speak to him to see how things have gone. He’s done a lot of striding out there and so I’ll find out. First of all I’ll need to speak to the medical staff, see how he is but, yeah, that’s a big step up today from what he was doing before.”
Asked if he would be prepared to postpone making a call on Walters’ availability right up to match day Monday, O’Neill suggested he’d hope to see more tangible progress in the player’s recovery from an Achilles problem before then.
“I think at some stage or another he would probably have to join in with us, to do something (in squad training),” he said. “That’s about a week he’s missed. Jon’s naturally fit which gives him a big advantage over a number of other players but I will wait, we’ll see how he is.
“And I would probably wait a wee bit longer for Jon than I might wait for a few others, in terms of what he’s done for us and in terms of his natural fitness.”
Robbie Keane has certainly made unexpectedly swift progress with his calf injury, to the extent the skipper was able to take to take a full part in training yesterday and now fully expects to be available for selection for Ireland’s opening game against Sweden in the Stade de France.
“I’m obviously back a lot quicker than expected, which I knew anyway myself, if I’m being honest,” he confirmed afterwards. “I’ve usually been a quick healer so it’s been very, very positive. Once you’re training that gives you a clear indication that you are ready for the game Monday.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Quinn was happy to give those of us firmly on the outside a virtual tour of the five-star Trianon Palace Hotel which the Irish squad now calls home.
“We’ve got our own rooms now but we’ve great craic,” he smiled, “we’re always piling in on Robbie Brady’s room or Shane Long’s and watching series and episodes and having a bit of banter.
“There’s a games room with table tennis, a golf simulator, a pool table, and all sorts. We can’t complain but you can’t beat the craic in the room, just having a bit of banter and watching a bit of telly.”
“When we arrived, there was a nice touch from the FAI with a bar of chocolate with a nice statement on it: ‘When we get together, it all comes together.’ Have I eaten it? No not yet, I’ll take that home.”
And from Jeff Hendrick, one of the younger players who should stand to benefit most from the news Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are now in it for the long haul, came this enthusiastic welcome for the management’s extended contract with Ireland: “Yeah it’s great. I had no doubt they’d do that. They’ve done a great job so far, qualifying straight away. We’ve enjoyed working with them as well. It’s good news all round.”
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