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McCarthy plays down injury fears around Enda Stevens ahead of Slovakia play-off

The Irish boss also praised James McCarthy and Shane Long, as the veteran duo seek to force their way back into international contention.

Enda Stevens in action during last November's qualifier draw with Denmark.
Enda Stevens in action during last November's qualifier draw with Denmark.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MICK MCCARTHY HAS eased fears that Enda Stevens will miss Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off with Slovakia through injury. Stevens scored a stunning goal in Sheffield United’s Premier League draw with Brighton at the weekend, but was forced off with a calf injury. 

Speaking to the FAI, McCarthy played down the severity of the injury and expects Stevens will return in time for the clash in Bratislava on 26 March. 

“It was a hell of a shot from Enda,” McCarthy told FAI.ie. “I’ve seen it described as a screamer on one report and that’s exactly what it was. Enda has been on top form for Sheffield United and for Ireland all season and it’s nice to see him amongst the goals now as well.

“We’ll take goals from anywhere in Bratislava at the end of March so the more Irish players scoring right now, the better as far as I’m concerned. As for his injury, he was taken off more as a precaution than anything else and Chris Wilder hopes to have Enda available for the Premier League game against Norwich on Saturday week.

“If he gets back in time for that one then he will have plenty of time for first-team action before we meet up in Dublin on 24 March.” 

Stevens wasn’t the only Irish scorer in the Premier League over the weekend, with Shane Long on target in Southampton’s 2-0 win at home to Aston Villa. Although he has yet to play a minute under McCarthy, Long has played himself into the manager’s thoughts for the make-or-break clash in March. 

Vying for attention is Scott Hogan, who has been on the fringes of McCarthy’s squad to date and has found form on loan at Birmingham, for whom he has scored four times in five games. 

“I can have no complaints about the flow of goals at present,” said McCarthy.

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“Shane has played himself right back into the reckoning at Southampton, not because of his two goals in recent weeks but because he is playing week in and week out and showing the benefits of that.

“Scott has really got himself back into the picture for Slovakia with his goals for Birmingham and his finish on Saturday was top class.” 

While his assistant Terry Connor was at Ashton Gate to scout West Brom’s Callum Robinson at the weekend, McCarthy went to Derby vs Fulham to watch Jason Knight and Harry Arter and then to Selhurst Park to scout James McCarthy, a trio of midfielders he has yet to cap. 

“Jason is doing well at Derby and he has really made the first-team breakthrough this season which is great for us.

“James did exactly what I knew he would do for Palace. He does the simple things well, sits in front of the back four and controls things for them. Like Shane at Southampton, he is benefitting from regular first-team football.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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