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Thursday 21 November 2019

Ireland boosted by Randolph but Connolly a Danish doubt

Aaron Connolly in action at Old Trafford where the Irish striker was taken off at half-time. Photo: Getty
Aaron Connolly in action at Old Trafford where the Irish striker was taken off at half-time. Photo: Getty
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The return of Darren Randolph was the highlight of the weekend for Mick McCarthy with next Monday's showdown with Denmark in mind.

But Aaron Connolly has emerged as a concern after damaging his groin in Brighton's Premier League defeat at Manchester United.

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Randolph made a timely recovery from a thigh strain to feature in Middlesbrough's 2-2 draw at QPR.

He was praised by his club boss Jonathan Woodgate for putting his hand up to play even though the crunch Euro 2020 clash loomed.

"Darren could have said, 'I'm not 100pc, I want to wait for Ireland'", said Woodgate, after the 32-year-old came through unscathed.

McCarthy was confident the player would be fine due to contact with Robbie Keane, who has a foot in both camps, and must now decide whether to risk Randolph in Thursday's friendly with New Zealand.

"Darren felt he was ok, he was recovering alright and it's great to see him back," he said.

However, the Irish boss learned last night that Brighton had sent Connolly for a scan after he was withdrawn at half-time at Old Trafford.

He is due to make his home debut in the friendly in an attempt to stake a claim for Danish inclusion.

Convened

The Ireland squad convened at their Castleknock base last night and will train today.

Matt Doherty was another doubt but he's proved his wellbeing at Wolves and played a full part in their Premier League win over Aston Villa. Seamus Coleman's suspension means Doherty is primed for a key role.

Glenn Whelan was the other major concern and he was back in the Hearts match-day squad, although he didn't appear in their 5-2 win over St Mirren.

All the vibes are that McCarthy will shuffle the pack for the New Zealand fixture to keep his leading lights fresh for Denmark.

Lee O'Connor has been promoted from the U-21 squad to ensure that Doherty can get a rest. Troy Parrott is in line for a debut.

Robbie Brady came off the bench for Burnley in their destruction of West Ham, and he's a certainty to start on Thursday.

McCarthy has also promised Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne that he will play some part.

Byrne made his senior bow in September's friendly victory over Bulgaria. On Saturday, the 23-year-old was named PFAI Player of the Year for 2019 and was presented with the gong by McCarthy.

"I've watched as many (League of Ireland) games as I can, I've been suitably impressed," said McCarthy.

"I always got stick that I never capped a League of Ireland player the first time around.

"I think that shows how it has progressed, it was very much different 17 or 18 years ago. When Jack comes in, he doesn't look out of place and he'll be involved on Thursday."

Byrne is under contract at Rovers for next year, but is set to be the source of transfer speculation this winter, with Hull the latest club to be linked with a move for his services.

Bohemians' Danny Mandroiu collected the Young Player of the Year award ahead of the Irish U-21 double header with Armenia and Sweden, with Stephen Kenny praising his 'exquisite' passing.

Denise O'Sullivan collected the Women's Player of the Year honours ahead of their date with Greece tomorrow, while Enda Stevens flew to the ceremony at the Marker Hotel after being voted the Overseas-based Player of the Year.

Stevens is excited by the Danish opportunity.

"It's the big games you dream of playing in as a kid," said Stevens. "We've got to be full of confidence."

"It's like a cup final, we've got home advantage and we've got to take it to them and hopefully come away with the result."

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