Thursday 13 December 2018

Hendrick hands Republic injury boost ahead of Denmark duel

Jeff Hendrick has handed Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill a World Cup play-off boost
Jeff Hendrick has handed Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill a World Cup play-off boost

Jeff Hendrick has handed Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill a major boost ahead of Saturday's World Cup play-off clash with Denmark.

The 25-year-old Burnley midfielder was able to train with the rest of his team-mates on Thursday before the squad headed to Copenhagen after previously working with the Football Association of Ireland's medical team as he attempted to shake off a gluteal muscle injury.

He was joined on the training pitch by club-mate Stephen Ward, with the full-back having been rested as a precaution earlier in the week.

An FAI spokesman said: "Both Stephen Ward and Jeff Hendrick, who had undergone specialised training sessions with FAI medical staff in previous days, came through the session without any problems."

Hendrick's presence among the travelling party was all the more welcome because of the absence of David Meyler through suspension for the first leg and James McCarthy with a hamstring problem.

Meyler captained his country to the 1-0 victory in Wales last month which booked their place in the play-offs, but picked up his second booking of the campaign along the way.

Two more familiar faces linked up with the squad before its departure from Dublin, with skipper Seamus Coleman and deputy Jonathan Walters joining up ahead of a double-header which will determine Ireland's presence or otherwise at the finals in Russia next summer.

Coleman is back in training after his recovery from the double leg fracture he suffered during the qualifing draw with Wales in March, while Walters is working his way back from a knee injury which has sidelined him since the beginning of September.

O'Neill's men go into the first leg full of confidence after back-to-back wins over Moldova and the Welsh last month, but knowing their job is far from done.

Denmark sit in 19th position in FIFA's world rankings, seven places better off than the Republic, but were the lowest-ranked of the seeds for the draw which saw Ireland avoid a showdown with either Switzerland, Italy or Croatia.

However, they need to ensure they are still very much in the tie when they leave the Parken Stadium ahead of Tuesday night's return at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland have previously played in eight play-off ties and have won only three of them, although it may be of some comfort to O'Neill that two of those victories have come in the last two attempts, the most recent under his charge when they saw off Bosnia & Herzegovina to reach the finals of Euro 2016.

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