Friday 23 March 2018

Transfer talk and injuries double headache for Martin O'Neill

James McCarthy
James McCarthy

John Fallon

Martin O'Neill may allow some players time off to complete transfers in the run-up to Wednesday's deadline - the night Ireland face Oman in their final friendly before next Monday's World Cup qualification kick-off in Serbia.

Several of the 28-man squad selected for the double-header have question marks about their immediate club futures, chief amongst them three of O'Neill star performers at the Euros - James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady.

That the trio are, fitness permitting, certain starters in Belgrade makes their absences tolerable for a match against the minnows that will be remembered mostly as a deserved send-off for Robbie Keane.

Complicating McCarthy's situation is the groin injury which kept him out of Everton's win over Stoke City on Saturday and may, according to Ronald Koeman, require surgery.

The Glaswegian doesn't see himself part of Koeman's new order on Merseyside, with greener grass on offer in his hometown club Celtic and a string of others, including Leicester City and Newcastle United.

McCarthy's clubmate Séamus Coleman remains a major doubt for the trip to the Balkans although, like fellow injury victim John O'Shea, he is expected to report for duty this week to be assessed by the FAI's medical team.

Hendrick is also struggling for fitness, having failed to appear for Derby County since suffering a hamstring strain two weeks ago, and is another attracting the interest from suitors.

Three bids from Burnley have already been rejected but Hull City are poised to intensify their pursuit over the coming 48 hours.

Striker Daryl Murphy will link up for the start of his final campaign having completed a €4.5m transfer from Ipswich Town to Newcastle United yesterday.

The 33-year-old, whose goalscoring prowess has been on show during his exploits at Ipswich where he netted 67 times in 225 appearances, becomes the second recent Irish capture by Rafa Benitez after the Spaniard recruited Ciaran Clark.

Their compatriot, Alan Judge, is expected to join them at St James' Park.

"Daryl has experience and has proven that he can score goals in the Championship," Benitez said.

"He gives us another option in attack and we could see from Friday's game against Brighton that we needed more bodies up front."

As much as McCarthy wanted to keep Murphy, the transfer fee represented shrew business for a manager long used to losing his most valuable assets.

Given the injury concerns over the pair of McCarthy and Hendrick, Wednesday should provide the setting for midfielder Harry Arter to earn just his second cap.

The Londoner returned from suspension to set up Bournemouth's goal for Josh King in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

David Meyler's strong start to the season at Hull, where he's played every minute under caretaker boss Mike Phelan, makes him another candidate to press his claims for inclusion when the competitive fare starts in Serbia.

Irish Independent

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