Republic of Ireland international Callum O’Dowda returned to training with his club Bristol City on Monday morning, putting him back into contention to feature in the opening games of the World Cup qualification campaign towards the end of this month.
O’Dowda has been sidelined with a serious hamstring injury since the end of December with the 25-year-old limping out of City’s 2-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers on St Stephen’s Day and as the long lay-off has gone on, it had seemed increasingly as though he would not get back in time for the Ireland games.
The return to team training on Monday morning, which was announced by the club on social media, suggests, however, that he has a real chance of getting back,although Nigel Pearson insisted that he would not be rushed into action again.
"There's a temptation, due to necessity to hurry things along," said the manager of O'Dowda as well as Nathan Baker and Andreas Weimann, both of whom also trained for the first time in a while, "but when they're back I want them to stay back. We will get them back when they're ready to play.
“It’s not about putting them in a difficult position,” he continued, “they all want to be fit to play but we have to deal with availability difficulties and that happens in football, so we have to get on with it.”
City have five Championship games between now and the international window and O’Dowda is likely to have to feature in one or two of those, presumably Blackburn away on St Patrick’s Day or Rotherham at home on the 20th, in order to be released.
The midfielder started Stephen Kenny’s first game in charge back in September, the one against Finland a few days later and the friendly in Wembley but missed three games completely due to a mix of injury and having been deemed a coronavirus close contact.
His return for the qualifiers would be regarded as a welcome piece of good news for Kenny who is already set to be without John Egan and James McClean.
Jack Byrne is ruled out of the qualifiers against Serbia and Luxembourg with a back injury that is said to require surgery.
The Dubliner, who came on in two of November’s international games, has started just two games for Apoel since his move to Cyprus at the start of January and featured in a further three. He will miss the rest of the club’s season.