Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has defended his decision to include the injured James McCarthy in his latest squad and accused Everton manager Ronald Koeman of “bleating” over his treatment of the midfielder.
McCarthy was on Wednesday morning named in a provisional 35-man squad for Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Austria on November 12 despite having been sidelined for his club team.
The 25-year-old is out for at least another week after he suffered a hamstring tear during training with Everton last month and O’Neill admits it is a race against time for him to be fit for the clash at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.
McCarthy has played little more than an hour of football for the Toffees since last month’s international break when Koeman complained O’Neill had “massively overloaded” the player by playing him against Georgia and Moldova last month following a groin operation.
“I totally refute that,” O’Neill told reporters at a press conference in Dublin. “James had declared himself fit. He played the first game and came off in the second not because he was injured but because he was tired.
“And, remarkably, he trained the very day their manager was bleating about it
“I have included James at this minute. Speaking to him, James is improving day-by-day. If the game for instance was this weekend, he wouldn’t make it. The following weekend? I would say he would be doubtful at this minute. He needs to get some proper training in.
“He has been doing a little bit, but it’s one of those. I’ll leave him in for the provisional squad and we’ll see how things go. Obviously he wouldn’t make it this week and he would need to do something a little bit before that.”
Asked why Koeman felt McCarthy had been overloaded, O’Neill replied: “I have no idea. I think you’d have to ask him.”
O’Neill handed surprise call-ups to Dundalk duo Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle, who are preparing to play Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League on Thursday.
He said: “I’ve been impressed by the way Dundalk play. Quite a number have done well. Any players called up deserve to be.”
Southampton striker Shane Long will miss the trip to Austria due to the injury he suffered against Inter Milan last week in the Europa League after O’Neill consulted the Saints physio, while there are doubts too over the fitness of John O’Shea and Stephen Ward.
Ireland are currently second in Group D, level on seven points with leaders Serbia, as they bid to reach a first World Cup since 2002.