Jeff Hendrick's showing is a big positive for Martin O’Neill
James McCarthy’s availability looks unlikely as David McGoldrick is another injury doubt
Jeff Hendrick celebrates scoring with Irish teammate Stephen Ward. Photograph: Reuters
With the Republic of Ireland squad set to gather and train together on Monday afternoon ahead of the two final World Cup 2018 qualifiers, Jeff Hendrick and his Burnley teammates provided at least a little encouragement for Martin O’Neill as he heads into what will be a big week.
Hendrick, who missed last month’s qualifying games due to a thigh injury, played 88 minutes of the 1-0 win before making way towards the end for Ashley Barnes but, the goal was an outstanding team effort that ended with a fine finish and assuming there are no after effects for the midfielder who is only recently back from injury, his performance will have been one of the most positive aspects of a generally quiet weekend for the Ireland boss.
James McCarthy again failed to feature in the Everton matchday squad and it would be a huge surprise at this stage if he were to play any part in the World Cup games, while David McGoldrick looks to be a doubt again after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem in Ipswich’s 1-3 home defeat by Bristol City.
“He’s tweaked his hamstring and it is a tight one,” said Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy after Saturday’s loss to Bristol City. “We have to be careful with him as we know the history he has with his hamstring.
“I don’t know what will happen with Ireland of course,” he continued. “He has been very good and the last thing we need is for him to be travelling away and getting injured. We can’t afford that.
“I guess that he will have to report, though. Ireland will probably want to assess him and it will be a blow for him if he’s not available. But he needs to be fit to play. I’m sure that Ireland will want him but we will have to see.”
It is still unclear whether Harry Arter will be fit enough to feature in the Ireland games, meanwhile, with his club manager, Eddie Howe, having said before the Leicester game on Saturday that Bournemouth’s medical staff would assess the player’s calf injury once that match was safely out of the way.
O’Neill acknowledged that Arter had picked up a calf injury in training when he was naming his squad last week but given the absence of McCarthy, he seems unlikely to give up on him at this stage unless the news from the club is worse than expected.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, rested Gareth Bale for their game against Espanyol on Sunday evening although it is still expected that the former Tottenham star will report for international duty with Wales who play Georgia away before Ireland’s visit to Cardiff.
The club confirmed that Bale had aggravated a calf problem last week against Borussia Dortmund and apparently they would prefer that was allowed to recuperate through the international break but Chris Coleman will be anxious to ensure that his star player is centrally involved in both Wales games. Guardian service