Everton midfielder James McCarthy is hoping to win his race to be fit in time to feature for the Republic of Ireland in their opening game of the European Championships.
The Toffees man has been recovering from a hamstring issue and missed Ireland’s warm-up games with the Netherlands and Belarus.
However, boss Martin O’Neill was desperate to give the midfielder every opportunity to prove himself and has gambled by including him in his 23-man squad. Ireland, who are priced at 11.00 to win Group E, are set to kick off their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden on Monday as they look to make a positive start.
O’Neill’s men have been handed a tough draw and will also have to take on Belgium and Italy as they look to secure progression to the knockout stages.
McCarthy, who has 35 caps for the national side, is one of the most experienced available to O’Neill in the middle of the park and he is still facing a race against time to be ready.
O’Neill revealed that it is very much a waiting game at the moment although he admitted it does look much more positive than it did a week ago.
The midfielder has gradually been stepping up his involvement in training as he worked with his team mates at Stade de Mantbauron in Versailles, and didn’t appear to show any signs of a recurrence.
O’Neill said: “Fingers crossed. “It’s looking more positive than about six or seven days ago.
I think there’s been very little reaction to the training that James has done, so that’s a very good sign.”