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Dublin: 12°C Saturday 19 September 2020

Welcome boost adds to selection headache for O'Neill as injured pair return to training

James McClean and Stephen Ward were back involved as the squad was put through its paces this afternoon.

O'Neill talking to the media in Malahide.
O'Neill talking to the media in Malahide.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL HAS been boosted by the return of two players to training ahead of Sunday’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland.

While Darron Gibson departed for Everton after being ruled out on Wednesday, 27 of the 28-man squad took part at Gannon Park in Malahide today — with Anthony Stokes the only absentee as he was due in court over an alleged nightclub assault.

Both Ward and McClean, who had sat out training earlier in the week, participated in the full session and O’Neill is optimistic that both will be available for selection.

“I think they have come through it and they didn’t complain at the end but sometimes it is an hour or two after training that you find out,” O’Neill said. “But they aren’t too bad.”

Burnley full-back Ward has played just one minute of competitive of football since December and his fitness will be assessed later today.

“I’ll have a word with him (Stephen) and see how he feels. This is the first bit of work that he has done. Fitness is very important but sometimes players can get through on adrenaline.

“You wouldn’t want to be going in with four or five players having done very little but Stephen knows himself and if he thinks he can make it, that is good news for us.”

Cyrus Christie, Wes Hoolahan, Stephen Ward and Harry After Stephen Ward (centre) training with Cyrus Christie (left) and Harry Arter (right) today. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

As usual, O’Neill won’t name his starting XI until an hour before kick-off and the Derry man was unsurprisingly keeping his cards close to his chest with two days still to go.

I think there are positions up for grabs, like there has always been since I’m come here,” he said. “Any international manager will tell you the same thing.

“He has got an idea that he can formulate a couple of weeks beforehand but the first time you really consider it is when you have players at you disposal for the week of the game.

“Sunday is the ultimate test but it has been a good week for the players.”

Analysis: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Poland team set to face Ireland?

‘A team with no stars’ – The Polish view on Ireland ahead of Sunday’s game

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Ben Blake

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