James McCarthy will tonight take the first steps on a journey that could lead him to the World Cup finals as he makes his return to action with Everton.
McCarthy has not played for club or country since March due to injuries but Everton's caretaker boss David Unsworth expects the midfielder to make his comeback in tonight's League Cup tie away to Chelsea.
"Both James and Morgan (Schneiderlin) are available for Wednesday and they were part of the group when I spoke to the players," says Unsworth, who has added former Ireland keeper Alan Kelly to his coaching staff in the wake of Ronald Koeman's exit.
McCarthy had started 14 consecutive competitive games for Ireland, but has not played in the last seven qualifiers.
As David Meyler is suspended for the first leg of the play-off against Denmark, and with tensions between the FAI and Everton likely to ease due to Koeman's sacking, McCarthy will come into the frame for Copenhagen if he can get a run of games with his club.
However, Toffees teammate Séamus Coleman is still sidelined.