Ireland assessing injuries as squad named for World Cup qualifiers

Kenny names 29-man selection but Kelleher, McClean and Connolly all carry knocks

Aaron Connolly may not be fit to face Serbia next week. Photo: Kalle Parkkinen/Inpho

Aaron Connolly may not be fit to face Serbia next week. Photo: Kalle Parkkinen/Inpho

 

Caoimhin Kelleher, Aaron Connolly and James McClean have all been included in the initial Republic of Ireland squad of 29 for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Ireland take on Serbia in Belgrade next Wednesday, Luxembourg back in Dublin three days later, as well as Qatar in a friendly which is being staged in Hungary on March 30th because of the restrictions on international travel currently in place between various other countries.

As he named the squad on Thursday afternoon, manager Stephen Kenny acknowledged that Kelleher and McClean remain significant doubts for Wednesday’s away game but he was more optimistic about Connolly with the Dubliner giving the impression that he believes the striker will be available to feature.

“There’s a bit of uncertainty alright,” said Kenny. “Caoimhin had an abdominal tear but we have until next Wednesday to see. With James it is too early to predict but both of them we will be assessed after the squad meets up in Manchester on Sunday.

“Aaron Connolly, I think will be okay,” he continued. “He’s had a fractured rib but he has resumed training and we are hopeful that we will have him next week.”

The importance of the young striker to Kenny’s plans is clear and the manager may be looking to give him every chance of featuring at some point but it would be a major surprise if he were in a position to play any significant part in the game that matters most, next week in Belgrade.

James McClean was another player who things do not look great for with his club manager Michael O’Neill suggesting a time frame of up to six weeks for him to get over a foot injury. Something that is, based on games played, still a fortnight away, but the Derryman’s determination to be involved can probably not be overstated and again, Kenny seems keen to give him every chance.

Troy Parrott in action for Ireland during last year’s Nations League clash with Bulgaria. Photo: James Crombi/Inpho
Troy Parrott in action for Ireland during last year’s Nations League clash with Bulgaria. Photo: James Crombi/Inpho

Troy Parrott is included though Kenny acknowledges it is not entirely on the basis of his club form since the summer. “He has found goals hard to come by,” he says, “but his workrate has been phenomenal and he is a player who I know well.”

Pressure

Gavin Bazunu also makes the cut and the young goalkeeper, who is on loan to Rochdale from Manchester City, could well be in contention to make his senior international debut over the window if Kelleher turns out not to be fit enough to feature. With Darren Randolph out, somebody is going to be given a big opportunity and Kenny acknowledges that there will be some concern about their ability to cope.

“I can see that people might look at the lack of international experience and be concerned by that,” he says. “But Caoimhin has played five games for Liverpool this year, two of them in the Champions League, so he is used to big games, it wouldn’t be an issue for him. Mark Travers is next in (line) has played for Ireland before, has played for Bournemouth and had a recent spell at Swindon, Gavin is a brilliant young prospect and Kieran has been in the squad before. So, that’s where we are at the moment. They’re the best goalkeepers that we have.”

Keiren Westwood, he said, was considered and will be again in the future but the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper is playing through injury for his club and apparently informed Kenny that he was not available on this occasion.

Callum O’Dowda is also included after having recovered sufficiently from injury to make two appearances from the bench for Bristol City during the past week.

As expected, James McCarthy, John Egan and Adam Idah are all ruled out by injuries.

Republic of Ireland squad to face Serbia, Luxembourg and Qatar

Goalkeepers: Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion).

Defenders: Séamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Duffy (Celtic, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Kevin Long (Burnley), Ciarán Clark (Newcastle United), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), Cyrus Christie (Nottingham Forest).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Swansea City, on loan from Aston Villa), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (Preston North End, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Jason Knight (Derby County), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht).

Wingers: Robbie Brady (Burnley), James McClean (Stoke City), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City).

Strikers: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), Shane Long (AFC Bournemouth, on loan from Southampton), James Collins (Luton Town), Troy Parrott (Ipswich Town, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur).

Fixtures

March 24th, 2022 World Cup qualifier: Serbia v Republic of Ireland, Stadion Rajko Mitic, Belgrade (kick-off: 7.45pm)

March 27th, 2022 World Cup qualifier: Republic of Ireland v Luxembourg, Aviva Stadium, Dublin (kick-off: 7.45pm)

March 30th, International Friendly: Qatar v Republic of Ireland, Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen, Hungary (kick-off: 7.45pm)

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