Millwall striker Aiden O'Brien is likely to train with the Ireland squad in Abbotstown, Dublin, on Wednesday morning after the 25 year-old was called up by Mick McCarthy to replace Shane Long, ruled out of the European qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia with a groin strain.
The Southampton striker took part in training on Monday, when he appeared to have recovered from the dead leg suffered in his club’s 2-1 win over Tottenham more than a week ago. However, the 32 year-old sat out Tuesday’s session, and it was announced shortly afterwards that he would play no part in either of Ireland’s games during the coming week.
The rest of McCarthy’s squad took a full part in the second session of the week, with Seamus Coleman and Sean Maguire joining in after watching from the sidelines on Monday. Late arrivals Conor Hourihane, Keiren Westwood and Shane Duffy also participated.
Richard Keogh played a part too despite his hand having to be protected by bandaging and a splint. The 32-year-old is back in contention for a starting spot these days after having returned from a year out of the team to start four of Ireland's final five games in 2018.
Yet he could well have been ruled of the Gibraltar and Georgia games after breaking a bone in his hand in Derby’s game against Stoke last week, but he passed up surgery so that he could be here this week.
“The hand surgeon was fantastic,” says the defender, “and said I could have the surgery and still come get back quite quickly, but potentially I might miss a few games. So I said with this and a big end to the season with Derby coming up, I’d rather just take the risk and keep playing.
“It’s settled down. I got re-X-rayed yesterday and the X-ray was a lot better already. The surgeon was pretty pleased. He was pretty confident; he’s obviously seen that injury quite a few times.”
It’s as well somebody had because Keogh’s on-pitch self-diagnosis skills seems to have let him down a little as the game progressed last Wednesday, and he sought to assess whether he was fit enough to continue playing or not.
“It went all floppy,” he says of the hand, perhaps just preferring to spare us the technical jargon. “That’s why I thought I’d dislocated it. I was just kind of pushing it around, probably a bit of stupidity and adrenaline. I carried on and then after the game it was a bit sore.”
No great surprise then when “I went for the X-ray and found out I’d broken it”.
Keogh is sporting a splint as he speaks, and says he will have to wear one if he is to play a part in either game.
“I’m sure there have been players who have played in them before, so it’s all above board, as they say. I’m sure the first few days will be just getting used to it really, having it around my wrist. But once you’re playing and so focussed, you forget about it.”
The big centre half, who looks to be competing with John Egan and Kevin Long to partner Shane Duffy at the heart of the Irish defence this weekend, admits that Ireland having a new management team played a part in persuading him to travel over despite the injury.
“There’s a little bit of that,” he says, before diplomatically adding that “I’m excited to work with the manager. I’ve played against his teams a lot over the years, and heard some great things from players who have worked with him. And he knows me very well.
“So from my point of view there is a lot of excitement in that sense of wanting to work with him. But just playing for Ireland means a lot to me. Unless they physically said to me I couldn’t come or I had to do something different, I was always going to turn up. If I have to wear a splint and tape it, that’s what I’ll do.”
Keogh re-established himself in the Irish team over the latter half of 2018, and accepts that a dramatic improvement is required by the team if the feel-good factor that has accompanied McCarthy’s return is to survive the very earliest stages of the new qualifying campaign.
“Nobody wanted the year we had,” he says, without the slightest fear of contradiction. “No player wanted to have the year that we did. The disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup probably hit the squad harder than we thought as players.
“It took us a little while to get over it, and then obviously with the Nations League…we could have performed better in that. Us as players, we’ve got to step up.
“With Martin [O’Neill], a lot of these players owe him a lot because he gave us a lot. We went to a major tournament, we had some great results along the way, including at the Euros, so we’re grateful for that.
“But it’s in the past now. We can’t worry about that. It’s not about what happened before, it’s about what happens now.
“There’s a manager coming in who has got a clear way of doing what he wants to do, that’s what we are working towards. The lads are really excited to get out there and really attack the campaign, and try and qualify for another tournament.”