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Martin O’Neill holding out hope for McCarthy and Arter

Both midfielders remain in contention for World Cup qualifiers

James McCarthy took a full part in training on Monday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Martin O’Neill says that Harry Arter and James McCarthy are both still in contention to play in one or both of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers over the coming week with the manager insisting that neither of them has given up hope of playing some part.

Arter, says the manager, “thinks he’ll be ready,” for Friday’s game against Moldova while McCarthy “doesn’t want to be ruled out,” after having trained with the first team at Everton for several days last week.

Of the pair, the Bournemouth midfielder, who worked one-on-one with one of the FAI physios this afternoon, appears to have the better chance of making the cut with his club manager Eddie Howe admitting that he was unsure about the seriousness of his calf strain.

McCarthy actually took a full part in this afternoon’s session but even the suggestion that he might play during this international break seems certain to antagonise Ronald Koeman. The Everton manager made it abundantly clear last week that he believes his player has a long way to go before he should be considering a return to competitive football with the bulk of that work, he suggested, to be done with the club not Ireland.

Asked about the possibility of another clash with Koeman, O’Neill claimed that he believes Everton might be happy to see their player progressing in training after so long out with an injury that he picked up at the club.

Darren Randolph, Eunan O’Kane, Shane Long, Johnny Hayes and Harry Arter watch Monday’s training session. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“I would have thought,” said the Ireland boss after his squad’s first training session of the week, “that given the amount of time that James has been out, and he picked up the injury at club level, I would have thought that Everton would be quite pleased that he is out of the environment for a little while, training with the international boys and see how things go. And beyond that, if he’s feeling pretty decent then I would have thought that that’s something that Everton would have been quite looking forward to.”

Asked if he was thinking in terms of the Wales game for McCarthy’s return, O’Neill said: “I don’t know how many times I can say this but seriously, I really do have to look at the first game from my own personal viewpoint. I understand what you are saying about James. Of course, every extra day is probably of benefit but he has done work at the first team level with his (Everton) colleagues, I’ll see how he goes. The extra couple of days would, normally speaking, be pretty good but I’ll see.”

Arter, David McGoldrick (hamstring), Jonny Hayes (ankle), Eunan O’Kane (ribs) and Shane Long (dead leg) all sat out and watched the early part of training this afternoon. The Southampton striker is said to have picked up the knock in his club’s game at the weekend but again O’Neill suggested that the player himself believes he should be fit in time for the qualifying games.

Kieran Westwood has been ruled out of both games and will remain with Sheffield Wednesday for treatment on his rib injury but O’Kane, who is nursing a rib injury of his own, still hopes to be fit.