Martin O’Neill optimistic about Séamus Coleman’s injury

Ireland manager hopes Everton’s full back and Darron Gibson will be fit for Georgia trip


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is optimistic that Séamus Coleman will be fit for the opening game of his team’s European Championship qualifier in Georgia in six weeks’ time and says that the full back’s Everton team mate Darron Gibson could well return for the game after starting to feature again in the club’s pre-season build up.

Both players came on at half-time in the club’s friendly against Tranmere on Tuesday but they enjoyed contrasting fortunes with Coleman departing soon afterwards with a hamstring problem while Gibson, who missed most of last season due to a cruciate ligament injury, came through his first game back unscathed.

Coleman was subsequently pulled out of the club’s trip to Thailand and, while manager Roberto Martinez described the move as “precautionary”, there was inevitable concern that the defender might struggle to be available for the trip to Georgia.

O’Neill believes that the tone of his opposite number’s remarks suggest that Coleman will be fit even if, he admits, a hamstring problem now could be a cause for future concerns.

‘Obviously disconcerting’

Gibson, he suggests, will be brought straight back into the squad as soon as he is ready. “It’s obviously disconcerting,” said the Derry man in Mullingar, where he helped with the draw for the third round of the Ford-sponsored FAI Cup, “but if they’re saying the words that Everton are saying: just ‘precautionary’ and such things, well, that’s encouraging.

“The last thing you want in pre-season is to be hit with an injury,” he continued, “particularly as it seems to be a hamstring injury. It’s not something I think he’s suffered from before but I don’t know, we’ll see.”

O’Neill said he was pleased with the reported progress of Gibson since the tail end of last season. “He must have made some progress – some really decent progress – over the summer time. If he’s able to keep up with the rest of the Everton players in pre-season and he’s actually performing for them then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t feel fit enough [to join up with the Ireland squad]. I know it’s been a lengthy time and it’s something that we’d monitor but I think the lad has got enough ability to be in our squad anyway, if fully fit.”

Close season transfers, like injuries, are, he says, outside of his control but he believes that players will, where they face increased competition from new arrivals for a first-team place, view the situation as added motivation.

He cited the example of Richard Dunne. “Take the backend of last season, after they got promotion, Richard extended his contract. Then QPR signed Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand and there’s doubt about it.

Proper squad

“Richard would be aware of the fact that the first thing clubs do after promotion is strengthen. You need a proper squad. Does that mean Richard feels his position is in jeopardy? He might. But he’s fought that all his life. He would take that as a challenge.

“I would hope is that what the players would do at football clubs, take it as a challenge. In my own personal experience, Nottingham Forest signed players every single year and you’d think ‘gosh he’s close to my position’. But what it meant? It just meant you went out and battled.”

On whether Dunne is likely to feature for Ireland over the coming months, he said: “Last season, he hardly missed a game for QPR but didn’t play for us. I know about his ability and I’ve said this before but I’m in no position to exclude people.

“Sometimes,” he added, in an apparent reference to Stephen Ireland, “people with ability might exclude themselves.”

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