James McCarthy in race against time to make Ireland qualifiers
Everton boss Ronald Koeman says midfielder still ‘struggling with his fitness’
Everton midfielder James McCarthy is unlikely to be fit for the Republic of Ireland’s final two World Cup qualifiers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Everton boss Ronald Koeman says that midfielder James McCarthy is set to return to first-team training at the club next week but the 26-year-old’s progress seems likely to be too slow for him to feature in Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova or Wales at the start of next month.
McCarthy has yet to play for Everton this season and Koeman said at his press conference on Thursday that the player is still “struggling with his fitness” due a knee injury.
Martin O’Neill has previously named the midfielder in squads at times when his club suggested he was not fit enough for international duty but having included him last month in his extended list of players for the games against Georgia and Serbia, the Ireland manager did not seek to push the issue when it came time for the players to gather in Dublin. O’Neill essentially acknowledged in the end that McCarthy’s lack of game time would be an issue even if the injury itself was not.
O’Neill is due to name his initial squad for next month’s qualifiers on Tuesday at lunchtime and given the fact that he completely changed his central midfield for the Serbia game, he would presumably have been keen to have McCarthy back as an option. Indeed, he might yet seek to postpone a final decision on the player’s availability by including him next week, but the sense at Everton is that the player will not be fit to play for them until at least the middle of next month, or immediately after the international break, and that ultimately seems certain to mean he misses out for Ireland.
Séamus Coleman, meanwhile, is making good progress as he works his way back from the double leg break sustained in the first qualifying game against Wales according to Koeman, although the Ireland skipper is certain to miss the return game in Cardiff on October 10th with the right back not expected back into full training until some time in November.
“They [the Irishman and Yannick Bolassie, who has also been sidelined by long-term injury] are both working hard,” said the manager. “They are doing well. They are going well in terms of the schedule but it’s not up to me to say it will be October or it will be November. Normally, we would expect them back in full training in November.”