James McCarthy a major doubt for Ireland’s clash with Wales
Martin O’Neill will be hoping Ciaran Clark’s knee injury is minor
James McCarthy tackles Harry Kane during the Premier League game between Tottenham and Everton at White Hart Lane. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is set to include both Ciaran Clark and James McCarthy in his preliminary squad for the World Cup qualifier against Wales but the Everton midfielder is a major doubt for the game while the Newcastle defender’s prospects should become clearer over the next 24 hours with his club due to get the results of a scan on the knee injury he picked up at the weekend.
“He got a knock so we withdrew him as a precaution,” said Rafa Benitez after the 3-1 home defeat by Fulham on Saturday. “We don’t know how serious it is yet, of course, so we will wait and see.”
The 27-year-old has been going well for the Championship leaders of late and his absence would be a blow to O’Neill who appeared to settle on him as a first choice towards the end of last year but there is a hope around the club that the problem might not be serious and that Clark might yet be available for the Championship game against Birmingham City next weekend.
If not, O’Neill is likely to be stretched at the back on Friday week with Shane Duffy already ruled out after breaking a bone in his foot. John O’Shea is available and Richard Keogh is likely to return to the Derby squad this week after an injury layoff. Of those who often provide cover, Marc Wilson has not featured since joining West Brom and Paul McShane limped out of Reading’s defeat at Preston over the weekend.
Daryl Horgan got a goal and an assist in that game while Andy Boyle also set up one up in what was his second appearance for the Championship club and the former Dundalk defender may find that his breakthrough has come at an opportune time. Conor Hourihane will also be hoping that he has done enough since moving to Aston Villa to maintain O’Neill’s interest but Scott Hogan is out injured after having failed to make much of an impact in his first four games.
Rob Elliot, meanwhile, may get a recall having made it back to the Newcastle bench, though not the team, after his cruciate injury and O’Neill will have been pleased to have seen more central figures like James McClean and Jon Walters get starts for their clubs over the past week. Shane Long only came on late in Southampton’s last game but is sure to return after missing the win away to Austria.
McCarthy, though, is a significant concern. “It happened at the beginning of last week,” said Everton boss Ronald Koeman at the weekend. “It is not a big hamstring, maybe he will be out for one or two weeks, but I am really disappointed about that.
“I am not a doctor, I am not a medical person but what I like is the best for him,” he continued. “This is another step back for the boy; that is really disappointing.”
If McCarthy is not fit to play for Everton against Hull on Saturday, the Dutchman is unlikely to be entirely happy to let him join up with the Ireland squad in the days that follow and matters are not helped by the tensions that have previously developed between the Irish management and the club.
Robbie Brady, meanwhile, is suspended for the Wales game but is likely to be named in the squad with a view to playing a part in the friendly that follows against Iceland. The Dubliner came on in Burnley’s game against Liverpool with Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward both starting the game which their side led but ultimately lost.