Aaron Connolly hands Stephen Kenny injury boost ahead of Serbia qualifier

The Irish manager is also hopeful Caoimhin Kelleher and James McClean will recover from injury ahead of next week’s World Cup qualifiers.

Aaron Connolly.
Aaron Connolly.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY IS optimistic on the availability of Aaron Connolly for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Luxembourg, while Caoimhin Kelleher and James McClean will also be assessed ahead of Wednesday’s game in Belgrade. 

Injury doubts surround all three, but the trio were today included in Kenny’s 29-man squad for the qualifiers along with the subsequent friendly against Qatar. 

“Caoimhin has an abdominal tear but we have until next Wednesday to the game”, said Kenny at a press conference this afternoon. “We will meet up in Manchester on Sunday and we will assess him. We will see how his rehab goes between now and then. 

“James [McClean] is in the early days of his rehab so we will have to see how that goes, it’s too early to predict that. I think Aaron Connolly will be okay. He has had a fractured rib, but he has resumed training and we are hopeful we will have him next week.”

The Irish squad will gather in Manchester on Sunday, and will train at Manchester City’s training ground on Monday before departing for Belgrade ahead of Wednesday’s game.

With Darren Randolph already ruled out, Kenny indicated Mark Travers is in line to start if Kelleher misses out too. Perhaps anticipating the potential absence of Kelleher, Kenny has named four goalkeepers in his squad, with Kieran O’Hara and teenager Gavin Bazunu also included. 

“Caoimhin has obviously played 10 U21 internationals under me and he was brilliant, did very well”, said Kenny. “I think he’s played five games for Liverpool this year – two in the Champions League – so he’s used to big games and it won’t be an issue for him.

“Mark Travers is definitely the next one in and Mark has obviously played for Ireland already, made his debut and has played some important games for Bournemouth and had a recent spell at Swindon. 

“Gavin has been brilliant, he’s a brilliant young prospect, and Kieran, who has been in the squad before, so that’s where we are at the moment, they’re the best goalkeepers that we have.” 

Veteran goalkeeper Kieren Westwood has not been included, in spite of his return from a rib injury for Sheffield Wednesday last night. Kenny, however, says Westwood is not available for selection: while he has returned to play, the goalkeeper has not been able to train and is, in his own words, “60% fit.” 

Adam Idah, John Egan, James McCarthy, Jack Byrne, and Harry Arter all miss out though injury. 

Republic of Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion).

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Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Duffy (Celtic, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Kevin Long (Burnley), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), Cyrus Christie (Nottingham Forest).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Swansea City, on loan from Aston Villa), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (Preston North End, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Jason Knight (Derby County), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht).

Wingers: Robbie Brady (Burnley), James McClean (Stoke City), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City).

Strikers: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), Shane Long (AFC Bournemouth, on loan from Southampton), James Collins (Luton Town), Troy Parrott (Ipswich Town, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur).

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