'Jon Walters deserves his chance to make Sweden game' - Martin O'Neill
Published 09/06/2016 | 17:27
Jon Walters took what manager Martin O'Neill called 'a big step-up' during the Irish team's first training session in Versailles today.
As the Irish team settled into their training base for the next fortnight with what was an intense and high tempo session, Walters got through a serious work-out on his own.
The Stoke player worked hard with one of the physios doing stretches, agility exercises and he kicked the ball hard, over long distances, and with both feet.
"He's coming along nicely now and for what he has done for us over the qualifying campaign," O'Neill added, "Jon deserves every chance to make it for Monday. What he did in this session was a big step-up on what he has been doing for the last while.
"But at some stage Jon is going to have to join in with the rest of the lads and do some physical stuff."
O'Neill didn't set a deadline for that, but Saturday looks the obvious cut-off point, given that Sunday's pre-match training session in the Stade De France will be nothing more than a gentle spin.
Ireland open their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden on Monday and Walters is now the only injury worry, with the two Robbies, Keane and Brady, taking a full part in the training match - as did a sharp-looking James McCarthy.
O'Neill was asked about his contract extension and confirmed that it was settled by a handshake with FAI Chief Executive John Delaney. "He persuaded me that it was a good thing to do, and I was happy to go along for another two years," said O'Neill.
Asked if it was a boost for the players, O'Neill said "the players want to play for their country, regardless of who is in charge, but they are a great bunch to work with.
"I've a decent idea of the team for Monday night, but I've just got to wait for Jon and to see that there are no reactions (to the hard training session) from the lads who were carrying knocks.
"But I have to say all the players are working hard to impress me and the staff and trying to win a starting place against Sweden."