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Mac reports for Irish duty

JAMES McCARTHY has given Giovanni Trapattoni a much-needed boost ahead of Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Macedonia by promising to show up for Ireland duty in Dublin today -- no matter what his club manager says.

There were two changes to the Ireland squad over the weekend as John O'Shea and Keith Andrews formally withdrew from the 29-man panel.

FAI medical staff will later today assess the injured trio of Richard Dunne, Keith Fahey and Leon Best, who were all unable to even sit on the bench for their clubs at the weekend, though reports indicate that Dunne is making "good progress" with his shoulder injury.

But there was one piece of good news for Trapattoni as the FAI fully expect McCarthy to report for duty in Dublin today.


"I appreciate the interest from Scotland but I do not want to go back on my word," said McCarthy. "I am, and will remain, a Republic of Ireland player.

"I hope to play against Macedonia next weekend and that will put any talk of Scotland to bed once and for all. There can be no going back after that."

Only last week, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez had caused confusion -- and some anger -- within Irish soccer circles by suggesting that McCarthy, a key player for Wigan in their battle against relegation, would not hook up with Ireland this week.

Martinez even suggested that the Scottish-born McCarthy was still undecided on his international allegiance.

Giovanni Trapattoni's squad began to assemble in Dublin during the day today ahead of the first training session at team HQ in Malahide, but the first item of business was to be a fitness test for the doubtful trio of Dunne, Fahey and Best.

Of that trio only Dunne is certain to start if fit but Trapattoni could consider Fahey -- if fit -- as a central midfield partner for Glenn Whelan, though Darron Gibson is expected to get the nod ahead of Paul Green and Fahey.

Best is also not expected to be in Trapattoni's starting XI but he is an option to have on the bench. His club situation is a bit difficult however as his manager Alan Pardew is unhappy with photos that emerged of Newcastle players Best, Stephen Ireland and Galway-born reserve team player Stephen Folan at the weekend.

They were not in the match-day squad for Saturday's game with Stoke through injury, but photos were published of the trio showing off their 'abs' at the Tup Tup Palace nightclub in the city on Friday night.

"Certainly, it is not ideal on the eve of a match, even if you are not playing," said Pardew.

There were quite a few positives from the weekend action involving Irish players as Seamus Coleman and Jonathan Walters scored for their clubs in Premier League wins, injury concern Keiren Westwood came though his club's game unscathed and Glenn Whelan -- certain to start in the Irish midfield -- got in another 90 minutes for his team.


But there remain concerns for Trapattoni as Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson -- who are all expected to start against Macedonia -- did not appear for their clubs for varying reasons.

Dunne is still suffering from a shoulder injury and wasn't fit enough to make the Aston Villa squad for their game against Wolves, though given his disciplinary issues with the midlands club he may have been excluded anyway.

The former Manchester City man is undoubtedly a key figure for Trapattoni -- Dunne has not missed a competitive international since the 2-2 draw with Wales in 2007.

Dunne is said to be making "good progress" on the injury he picked up in an FA Cup defeat to Manchester City last month and Trapattoni will give him every opportunity to recover.

Keane was forced to sit out West Ham's draw with Spurs under the terms of his loan move from Tottenham to the Hammers, so the Ireland captain was starved of some much-needed game time.

And Gibson was again a spectator for United in their win at home to Bolton Wanderers.

Meanwhile the Jamie O'Hara international saga took another twist as the confused Wolves man appeared to swing back towards the England camp after a dalliance with Ireland.

"I haven't given up on England," said O'Hara.

"There is a new generation coming in and if I am putting in performances there is no reason why I can't break into the team."