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With McCarthy out, I can be Ireland's middle man - Darron Gibson

Midfielder hoping to impress against Gibraltar and take over from his young Everton team-mate.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

AS THE OLD saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. Darron Gibson has personally accounted for so much misfortune over the past year that it seems right that the ledger starts to balance itself out.

Yesterday in Malahide, Martin O’Neill snuffed out any lingering hope that James McCarthy might be fit enough to travel to Germany next week. It’s a significant blow but the conversation will quickly turn to those who can replace him in the Irish engine room.

Even though he has only started two competitive games since his return from a devastating cruciate injury, Gibson believes he’s the man to take over from his young Everton team-mate.

O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane got their first look at the Derry man when he played 70 minutes against Oman last month. On an otherwise forgettable night, Gibson was one of the few players to make a mark — quite literally in his case with an overzealous tackle that earned him the game’s only booking moments before he was subbed off.

He didn’t feature against Georgia a few days later and Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has used him sparingly since, although he did start the Capital One Cup defeat against Swansea and against FK Krasnodar in the Europa League last week.

“It has been a bit frustrating not playing in the Premier League,” he admitted yesterday, “but I’ve got two games in in the last two and a half weeks so I’m happy enough coming into this week.

“There’s been quite a bit [of conversation with Martinez]. Hopefully I’ll get some minutes here and then push on when I get back there. He knows I’m frustrated.

The first few games I played were obviously about getting minutes under my belt but I think I’m ready to play properly now. I think I’m match fit and I’m ready to go.

“I played in the European game during the week and I felt physically strong so I think I’m ready.”

The squad — minus the injured McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Shay Given — flew into Malahide on Monday to begin preparations for the qualification double-header.

O’Neill hasn’t revealed his plans yet but Gibson knows he must seize whatever chance he gets against Gibraltar on Saturday to put himself in contention for a start in Gelsenkirchen.

 

And he needs no reminder about Ireland’s chequered record against the so-called minnow nations.

“Obviously we’re going to take the game seriously and hope we get the win. I don’t think we’ll be going out there thinking we’re going to beat these five- or six-nil. I think we’ll go out and try our best and hopefully get the win.

Hopefully I do get the chance and do have an influence so I can play on Tuesday night as well.

Inevitably there was a question or two about Roy Keane’s upcoming autobiography, which is published tomorrow, and the headlines it has already generated.

“There’s been a few comments but nothing serious, nobody has taken the book seriously,” Gibson said. “The lads just get on with it.

“There has been a few jokes made around the table but like I said, nothing serious. I don’t think it will affect the lads.”

Stuart Byrne column: Plenty of others deserve Ireland call-up just as much as Lenihan

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Niall Kelly

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