Roy Keane not even contemplating playing for a draw on Friday

Martin O’Neill has lost a team’s worth of players for World Cup qualifier against Wales

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane:  “We’ll do our best to win a game of football . . . This idea, this element of doom and gloom with the injuries – I think the players are in a good place.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane: “We’ll do our best to win a game of football . . . This idea, this element of doom and gloom with the injuries – I think the players are in a good place.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Roy Keane remains positive about Friday’s World Cup qualifier despite the succession of injuries that has already deprived Martin O’Neill of almost a team’s worth of players, with the Corkman insisting that there will be “no excuses” on the night.

Daryl Murphy became the latest player to be ruled out yesterday morning and Ireland’s assistant manager sounded far from optimistic about James McCarthy’s chances of featuring.

Wales might well see their hosts’ many problems as an opportunity to grab the win that would put them right back in the hunt for the group’s top spot, but the former Manchester United star maintains that anyone thinking Ireland might settle for the draw is “sadly mistaken”.

If McCarthy misses out then Aiden McGeady may well get a start, although it might still be the man occupying his old position on the left who plays the bigger part.

James McClean’s form in his most recent games for Ireland suggests his contribution could be key here, and yet he goes into the game having lost both a friend and, he said yesterday, a hero in the space of 48 hours.

Pay his respects

“If he plays like he trained today then I would be pretty happy,” said Keane when asked about the player. “These things happen. It is shocking news; the young kid – Ryan – and Paul McCarthy (the former under-21 international and one-time Rockmount team-mate of Keane’s who passed away a month ago), of course.

“But you know, as professionals we do have to get focused on the game. You have to also pay your respects. But sometimes you pay your respects by how you play in the game. That is part of our job, I am afraid.”

O’Neill said on Monday that he would give McClean permission to do whatever he felt he had to with regard to McBride but the manager will be anxious to ensure the player’s preparation for the game is affected as little as possible in the circumstances.

Broader question

“James McClean not having played regularly does not keep me awake at night,” said Keane, “because we know when they turn up, it is a different form of, I suppose, energy that we want from them anyway.

“The reassurance I get is what he does with Ireland, whether he is having a good or bad time at club level. And I have to say that goes for lots of our players. On paper, logically, we need our players playing regularly but we do have a group of players who, whatever is going on at club level, or with off-the-field stuff, they do seem to leave it at the door of the hotel.

“Which is great from our point of view because we know that, with our group of players, there is a trust there, and that all their energies will be on Friday night. We certainly need high energy levels – we have seen that before, going back to the Euros, we saw that against France when we didn’t get to recharge our batteries. And whatever about lack of match sharpness, we have that and that can help us deliver a performance.”

Obvious options

“Martin has always named a fairly big squad and we’ll have enough players for Friday, obviously the starting 11 and players off the bench.

“We’ll do our best to win a game of football . . . this idea, this element of doom and gloom with the injuries – I think the players are in a good place, working with a brilliant manager and we have a bit of momentum, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else over the next few days than getting ready for an international match for Ireland with the group of players we have.”

McCarthy, he suggests, needs to train on Wednesday in order to remain in real contention, with a return on the day before the game unlikely to offer the opportunity to get back up to speed.

“James didn’t train today. I would say [he is] very doubtful. I think he had another scan yesterday and I think he did a bit of running with Dan [Horan, the team’s head fitness coach] today, but if we wasn’t to join in with the group tomorrow then, like I said, it’s highly unlikely he’d be involved on Friday – it’s just too close to the game.”

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