Everton manager Roberto Martinez has backed Darron Gibson to return to action ahead of schedule by figuring in his club's final home match of the season.
The Derry man was expected to miss the remainder of the Premier League campaign after tearing knee ligaments in Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Kazakhstan last October.
However, he is ahead of schedule in his recovery, and Martinez has set the symbolic target of a comeback in the Goodison Park encounter with title-chasing Manchester City on May 3.
Gibson is further down the recovery trail than his club colleague Arouna Kone.
"It would be an incredible achievement for Darron and Arouna if they could wear the Everton shirt again before the season finishes in May," said the Spaniard.
"Darron has always been ahead of the expected progress. So he has a small chance. Even if it's just making the final home game it would be terrific. He is running now and progressing well. Darron is the more likely of the two.
"Arouna is also progressing well and if we could see him on that last day it would be great. From a medical point of view we shouldn't really expect either to be back before the end of the season.
"But to maybe have them back for the Manchester City game would end what has been a disappointing season for them both personally on a high note. They're both important to our set-up."
If Gibson meets the City target, it opens up the possibility that he could figure in Ireland's end-of-season plans pending the approval of his employers.
Ireland host Turkey in Dublin on May 25 before a proposed London date with Italy and a possible trip to the United States although the latter is yet to be confirmed due to complications with the suggested dates.