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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 14 August, 2018
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Boost for Ireland ahead of crucial Wales qualifier as Walters declared fit

The 33-year-old attacker has not played since completing 90 minutes in Stoke’s 2-0 defeat of Watford on 3 January.

Walters has played every minute of Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign so far.
Walters has played every minute of Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign so far.
Image: Ronald Zak

JON WALTERS IS set to win his fitness race for Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium later this month.

The 33-year-old attacker has not played since completing 90 minutes in the Potters’ 2-0 defeat of Watford on 3 January.

A decision to undergo surgery on a troublesome knee injury, which he picked up in Stoke’s 4-1 loss to Liverpool, left him doubtful for the Wales game on 24 March.

As recently as last weekend, Stoke boss Mark Hughes suggested the experienced forward — who has played every minute of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign so far — was “two to three weeks” away from a return.

However, Hughes has today confirmed that Walters is available for his side’s clash at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday, meaning he will likely have plenty of time to work on match sharpness ahead of his Ireland commitments in three weeks.

The return of the Stoke forward is a timely boost for Martin O’Neill’s men, who will be without at least one key player in Robbie Brady, after the Burnley star picked up a suspension after receiving a second booking of the campaign against Austria back in November.

Wales had their own injury concern over star player Gareth Bale recently, but with the Real Madrid attacker returning for his club after a three-month layoff earlier this month, he will almost certainly feature against Ireland.

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Paul Fennessy

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